First of all, a huge thank you to the donors who have supported Punarbal Plus so far; your support is contributing to ensuring that these children get the opportunities they deserve. Also, a huge thank you to Nepal’s Armed Police Forces who have kindly donated food for the children for a year, so that during the initial start-up period the children will still get the proper nutrition they so desperately need with HIV.
Slowly, one by one, children have arrived at the new Punarbal Care and Support Centre in Swoyambhu, Kathmandu from the far western districts of Kailali and Accham. While construction workers are still giving the first and third floor the last finishing touches, seven children have moved into the second floor, and 12 more are coming as soon as the building is ready for it hopefully within two-three weeks. These seven children, six HIV-infected and one HIV-affected, have been merged in with the school’s 65 other students without a problem and are getting bolder by the day. A 10-year-old girl, Januka Pariyar, had a very bad skin infection when she came, but thanks to regular visits to a nearby clinic, her skin is now healing and it even seems that it won’t scar. Shy and scared when she first came, Januka is now outgoing and laughs often, a sound that is filling the air around the Care and Support Centre more and more. All the children have received medical checkups and a doctor comes by once a week to ensure that they are all healthy and that their medicine is administered properly. Dil Kumari and the teachers have all received training on how each child’s medicine should be taken and they are very carefully with it.
The lessons still take place in the old school building, a 15 minutes’ walk from the C&SC, and so every day after school one of the teachers and Caretaker, Dil Kumari walk the children back, picking up bananas and oranges on the way for a nutritious afternoon snack. Then the children have an hour of playtime, followed by doing homework helped by the teacher and Dil Kumari. Supper is served at 6.00 PM, a healthy meal of rice, beans, lentils and a vegetable curry, after which the children go to bed, to be ready for the next day. The students have settled in very well and when The Mountain Fund’s volunteers visited the house on December 15th, the children were all happy and healthy and played energetically with the volunteers.
November 19th till 22nd, Principal Apsara Karki, along with three Punarbal SKihskya Sadan staff members and two Mountain Fund volunteers went to Kailali District in the remote western part of Nepal to visit the children that will live at the new Punarbal Care and Support Center from end of this month.
Kailali District, along with nearby Achham District, have the highest concentration of HIV-infection in Nepal, and the some of the highest poverty rates too. The lack of proper nutrition and the lack of sexual education make for a very deadly cocktail, and in a small village of approximately 50 families no fewer than 60 children were HIV-positive. Many of them have not disclosed their HIV-status in fear of discrimination and many live in constant fear of being discovered and expelled from the community.
Even though the group was faced with so much poverty and misery, the mood was high; the purpose of the trip was to confirm the placements of the 15 HIV-positive children deemed to be of the greatest need of healthy food, good education and loving care. However, the need for more places like Punarbal Care and Support Center was obvious; many children live with HIV in poverty-stricken areas and most of them don’t get all or any of the opportunities they deserve.
In Kailali District Punarbal Plus cooperates with a local one-man-organization called New Life, run by Jagat and his motorcycle cum ambulance. He, himself HIV-positive, drives around to the villages in the district and persuades people to get tested and provides help and support in case the results come back positive. It is through him that Punarbal Plus has been able to choose the first 15 children to go to Punarbal Care and Support Center in Kathmandu, a 15 hours busride away. He also helps run the vocational training center for HIV-positive women in the district, and he never gives up despite being forced to move the training center 5 times already because of the community’s fear of HIV.
The trip greatly contributed to the group’s understanding of the problem, and it has undoubtedly helped the organization in achieving it’s goal of providing education for all, HIV-infected of not.
Helping with HIV of All Ages: The Story of Ms. Dil Kumari.
Ms. Dil Kumari B.K. was born in Syangja District not far from Kailali in 1983. At age 17 she was married to a man, who had worked in India since he was twelve. One day, he came back to Nepal because he had fallen seriously ill. However, he refused medical help, saying: “My illness can never be cured.” He died in 2004, and Dil Kumari was kicked out of the household by her in-laws who believed she had caused bad luck. After attending some skill training classes in Syangja she moved to Kathmandu to find work, but after some time she too fell ill and learnt to her dismay that she was HIV-positive. Depressed and shunned she tried to commit suicide but luckily, she didn’t succeed. After getting counseling and support from Sahara Group, a small NGO that works with HIV-infected women in Nepal, she regained her confidence and realized that life doesn’t end if you test positive of HIV.
When Punarbal Plus heard her story, they immediately hired her as caretaker of the children at the school and she will be moving in at the Care and Support Center as caretaker and surrogate mother for the children.
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