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Sep 17, 2020

Stop the stigma

Sleeping through the crisis
Sleeping through the crisis

We hope you are staying as safe and healthy as we are keeping our babies. Although the adoption process has started again in India, our center remains in lock down to non-essential visitors and is still over capacity. We remain extremely concerned that there will continue to be increased demand for the cots in our home as lock down restrictions continue and Corona cases rise across our nation. 

Given the current situation we thought we would share some positive news here. Earlier this year, just before lock down,  we celebrated a hugely significant event with our first ever HIV+ adoption. We are truly grateful to these adoptive parents who have truly secured a place in our organisation's history books.

In the early hours of a cold March morning, Alan and Kerry woke in their home in Ohio, USA, warmed by anticipation of starting their 8,000 mile expedition to our Snehenakur Adoption Center, where they finally arrived two days later. Although a little weary, adrenaline smashed away their fatigue as they finally came face-to-face with their son for the first time.

They have joined over 1,200 families that have made this journey since the birth of our adoption center in 2003. While the informal handover ceremony that follows signifies our usual official handover of an infant to its new parents, that day we were making history. Two-year-old Ashok was our first ever HIV+ child to be adopted.

Abandoned as a baby he has grown up in the loving care of our Rehabilitation Center, where his mischievous sense of humor and cheeky smile, which can light up a room, made him a hit and won over many hearts. Despite this we were unable to find Indian parents to adopt him so we put him forward for an international adoption.

When Alan and Kerry saw him they didn’t hesitate. To them, as long as Ashok has the right medication, his HIV status can be managed as easily as the health and development of their other two children. This is reflected by the fact that the process for adopting a HIV+ child in the United States is almost the same as for a non-HIV child. They recognise that no matter their age, race, colour or health condition, every child needs a family.

Little Ashok took to his new parents straight away and after their joyous ceremony, they faced their long journey home together where he would be united with his two older brothers, one adopted from Haiti and the other, the couples’ natural child.

Alan and Kerry’s actions have paved the way for other couples to do the same. After all, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is for sure HIV is a much more manageable virus, thanks to the progress of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). Using it correctly, a HIV+ person can expect to live a normal life span and treatment has advanced so much it is now possible for a positive couple to have a child who is negative.

We are so happy that Alan and Kerry have chosen to keep us posted on Ashok’s progress. He’s growing fast and is beginning to speak and understand English. Video clips show how he took like a duck to water on his first trip to the local swimming pool, learned to brush his teeth by himself and loves playing in the park with his brothers. The bright lad is now preparing for pre-school and we are so happy to see that he is a regular, happy and healthy little boy.

Alan and Kerry play down any sense of heroics, but they are pioneers, sending out a clear message to one and all that with the right care and love, an adopted HIV+ child can complete a family as equally as any other child.

There's more good news. You can help more babies like Ashok by giving today. All donations up to $50 will be matched by 50% as part of GlobalGiving's #LittleByLittle campaign. With matching on all donations, BIG change can come from lots of little acts of kindness.

Stay safe.

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Jul 17, 2020

Virtual slum classes

Small classes in our teachers' homes
Small classes in our teachers' homes

We sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. As a valued supporter of our projects we want to reassure you that work on our existing projects continues, despite the challenges the current pandemic and lock down is presenting on a daily basis.

Maharashtra, where we are based, currently has registered the largest number of confirmed cases in India and as a result we have been on lock down since 24 March. Before the national and state governments intervened, we had already taken action by stopping visitors to our 23 projects, reducing our field work and providing our staff and beneficiaries with health and sanitation support. As a direct result of our early interventions, we are happy to report that so far we have no suspected cases of the virus.

People living in slums have been hit extra hard as many rely on daily wages to feed their families, as the lock down forced most businesses to close, people who live from day to day have seen their meagre incomes and food supplies rapidly disappear. Living in cramped and basic quarters they are also at a higher risk from COVID 19 and our teams have been responding by providing over 10,000 kits food and hygiene kits and emergency financial relief to help them fight off both the virus and starvation.

Usually we would be reporting on the start of the school year on 15 June but the Indian government has suggested that schools will not reopen until at least October. With India’s extreme lock down closing our own school and after school classes and with limited technology available to our pupils, it has been a challenge to continue to support our children’s educations. Our staff, children and their parents have been amazing in rising to the challenge. When strict lock down measures prevented anyone from being outside our slum teachers used Whatsapp to contact students via their parents’ mobile phones. They set tasks and assignments and asked those who could to send photos and videos of their progress. Now lockdown has eased a little our teachers are now able to hold small classes in their own homes and conduct home visits to our 700 pupils, one child at a time, to check in on their work and set more homework.

We are relieved that our strong foundations and networks meant we were able to keep our children learning, however UNESCO estimates that there are 700 million girls worldwide affected by school closures. With women and girls making up the majority of caregivers, healthcare providers, and essential workers, we are concerned that many girls will never return to the classroom. With so many families facing extreme poverty and loss of livelihoods, they may feel more pressure to force their daughters into early marriage or child or domestic labour. Our projects such as our slum centers, IT center, vocational training centers, hospital, Childline and other outreach services will continue to promote the importance of education and offer support to enable every child in our district the opportunity to complete 12 full years of schooling.

Now more than ever, your support is vital. We only exist because of wonderful people like you. While we completely understand your own situation may prevent you from donating, you can still help by spreading the word about our work and raise awareness of the situation for vulnerable women and children in India.

Never before has it been so important to know that we are all in this together. Please take good care to stay safe and healthy.

Children share their work via Whatsapp
Children share their work via Whatsapp
Lock down inspires creativity
Lock down inspires creativity
Keeping classes small helps contain Corona
Keeping classes small helps contain Corona
Ration kits feed children's families for 1 week
Ration kits feed children's families for 1 week

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Jul 17, 2020

Over 1 million cases in India

We have literally helped truck loads of people
We have literally helped truck loads of people

We sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. Maharashtra, where we are based, currently has registered the largest number of confirmed cases in India and as a result we have been on lock down since 24 March.

We realise the current pandemic is wreaking havoc on the entire world and affecting each and every one of us in many different ways which is why we are so grateful that you have chosen to support our work. When India locked down it had a devastating impact on so many communities but particularly daily wage workers who live hand to mouth from day to day earning as little as US$1 a day. These included migrant workers who, with no earnings to support themselves and their families, struck out to seek refuge in their home villages. When we, like you, started hearing about their plight we took immediate action.

To begin with we started delivering cooked meals to some of the poorest slum communities in our district, including our sex worker communities who like everyone else had stopped working when they realized the risks of COVID 19. However, realizing this wasn’t sustainable, we started delivering ration and hygiene packs to help families feed themselves over longer periods. We also promoted hygiene and health protection distributing masks and sanitisers. To date, with your support, we have distributed over 10,000 food and hygiene kits.

After a month of lock down we started seeing the migrant workers on their long journey home passing through our city, some of whom had already walked hundreds of miles from Pune and Mumbai with everything they owned on their backs and still hundreds of miles away from home. In response, we set up roadside centers where they could enjoy a cooked meal and pick up ration and hygiene packs for their onward journeys and fill their water bottles. We also provided locker facilities where they could store their belongings to pick up once lock down ends, road maps the help them navigate the quickest route home, details of other NGOs en route who could offer similar support, transportation including bikes, prams and carts to carry their belongings and buses to take them to the state border as well as new shoes, clothes and anything else they required. During the one month we were there, we helped over 40,000 people, including 4,600 who we transported further down the road on our own school buses.

The lock down continues and cases are increasing at an alarming rate. While our emergency work continues we also have nearly 15,000 beneficiaries who still need our regular support. This includes women and children living in our shelter homes, slum dwellers, sex workers and women experiencing domestic and other violence. It is anticipated that there has been a huge increase in domestic violence but we are also worried for the girls being married off in child marriages or forced in domestic servitude and at risk of not returning to school once lock down ends. We are also now 20% over capacity in our adoption center as more babies are abandoned and relinquished and more families experiencing poverty feel that their only resort is to place their children in care. People living with HIV are also suffering with healthcare services focused on the virus and the access to their life-saving medication becoming harder to access.

Fortunately, all of our projects remain active, including our Childline and women’s helplines which offer lifelines and emergency rescue and support to vulnerable women and children. We are extremely grateful to know that we are all in this together and your support means we are there to not only offer emergency relief but to continue to offer our vital services to our current beneficiaries and the extra demand we are experiencing due to Corona.

Please stay safe.

The long walk home...
The long walk home...
Some migrant workers hadn't eaten for days
Some migrant workers hadn't eaten for days
Most slum dwellers are daily wage workers
Most slum dwellers are daily wage workers
Our kits provide at least 1 week's food supplies
Our kits provide at least 1 week's food supplies

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