Freedom Foundation Trust (http://www.thefreedomfoundation.org/) is an NGO /registered trust started in 1993 as a dream of two friends who had witnessed firsthand the devastation of alcoholism and drug abuse. Began work in the field of substance abuse and then due to the urgent need of the times, started working for People living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) in 1996. . Freedom Foundation Trust’s various care and support projects across the country addressed the care and support needs of lakhs of clients in the six high prevalence states of Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Maharastra, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, & Nagaland. In the year 2000 initiated Highly Active Anti-Retro-viral Treatment (HAART) program. PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS) was started in the year 2002 and reached more than 4 lakhs of pregnant women for Voluntary Counseling and Testing.
Freedom Foundation Trust has been the pioneers of HIV/AIDS & Substance Abuse interventions in India, especially in the area of comprehensive care & support. It is considered to be the largest service delivery NGO in the Substance Abuse/HIV/AIDS sector in India. The foundation had a plethora of very successful intervention covering a wide spectrum of activities focusing on substance abuse and HIV/AIDS, addressing the needs of children, women, and men, especially form communities that are marginalized and are suffering from disease and poverty.
Freedom Foundation Trust is credited to have set up the first comprehensive Community based comprehensive care and support center in India at Bangalore and is recognized as a model by NACO (Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India) and other national and international agencies. During a time when HIV meant shame & silence, Freedom Foundation Trust which was working in the field of de-addiction, opened its doors to people infected with HIV. It had a series of interventions linking up the continuum of Prevention to care (HIV/AIDS & Substance Abuse) with a wide spectrum of services. The Freedom Foundation Trust’s head office is located at Bangalore, India.
The Freedom Foundation Trust team has managed to achieve a lot with limited resources; many of its initiatives are not supported by any committed grants or donors. Freedom Foundation Trust is a recipient (sub recipient) of funding from 2 rounds of the Global Fund. Round 2 and round 4 of the India grant. Freedom Foundation Trust is the recipient of many International awards for its work in the Substance Abuse / HIV/AIDS sector. The Freedom Foundation Trust has replicated its model also in Nigeria and Botswana.
The foundation started focusing on OVC (orphan and vulnerable children) in the context of HIV/AIDS way back in 1996. The foundation has hundreds of children registered with the organization, the foundation reaches out to approx. 150 children annually. The foundation has specialized facilities at Bangalore and Hyderabad that care for HIV positive abandoned orphans.
The Foundation is currently working with two child care centers in Bangalore and Hyderabad: Positive kids and Diya. Freedom Foundation Trust’s childcare programs stem from a belief system that every child has a right to their childhood – a hopeful existence free of exploitation, violence, neglect, and illness and extreme poverty. Children need education, health services, consistent support systems as well as love, hope and encouragement; all these things and more are required in order to experience childhood to the fullest, and to eventually develop into healthy, capable adults. The Foundation endeavors to protect and uphold the rights of marginalized children especially those living with / affected by HIV and empowers them – most of who are from economically poor backgrounds and are thus vulnerable to exploitation. The child care initiative of the Foundation was a response to the disease, death and abandonment that children faced after the demise of their parents. The disease and financial burden caused by HIV on the family make the children infected / affected vulnerable to various social evils like child labor and trafficking to sex work and other sexual abuse. By enhancing access to treatment and psycho-social care, the Foundation ensures that the children while remaining healthy continue to pursue education and life skills training and are thus protected from these threats.
Freedom Foundation Trust’s work in the child care service stems from the belief that “No child needs to sacrifice the quality of life to an illness.” We strive to deliver and uphold the fundamental rights of the child within the family, community & institution. The Right to Life, Protection, and Health & Education form the four pillars of this intervention. This is achieved through 3 vertical components of:
- Holistic residential care for HIV Positive Orphan children.
- Education & Nutrition for HIV infected/affected children in the community.
- Creating and establishing an ecosystem of care givers who support the development of these orphan children.
The residential care program aims to provide a protected residential environment, wholesome nutrition, healthcare, education & livelihood to HIV infected orphan children, starting an independent life and becoming productive citizens of the community. The community program focuses on supporting the care givers families in the community who then mitigate the risk of orphan hood for these residential children once they go out to face the world.
The community program works towards reducing mortality and preserving quality of life among PLHIVs. Having the adults survive would mean that the futures of the children are secured. It would mean lesser number of children having single parent or being orphaned, having to drop out of school or being forced into child labor and other issues.
Currently the Foundation caters to over 128 children that include 28 kids in the centers and 100 children and care givers in the community whom we support with medicine, nutrition, education support etc. These care givers mittigate the risk of orphanhood for these children who are being integrated to the society. The organization is looking for further scope/possibilities to reach and serve more HIV +ve orphaned children and care givers.
- Freedom Foundation Trust is the recipient of many International awards for its work in the Substance Abuse / HIV/AIDS sector.
- UNAIDS has published a case study of the Freedom Foundation Trust as a “Center of Excellence” and “Best Practice” on Comprehensive Care.
- The first Commonwealth Award for “Action on HIV/AIDS” was conferred on the Freedom Foundation Trust for its “Outstanding Work in Comprehensive Care” in 2001.
- The US based ASHOKA – Innovators for the Public, conferred a Fellowship award to Dr. Ashok Rau, Executive Trustee &CEO, Freedom Foundation Trust for Social Entrepreneurship.
- UNAIDS has presented the Freedom Foundation Trust with an award for its work an award for “Excellence in Community Care” this was presented by Dr. Peter Piot (Executive Director-UNAIDS -United Nations - AIDS) on 4 the November 2004.
- The Terry Sanford Institute of Public Health (Duke University - USA) has conferred Dr. Rau as a Senior Research Fellow.
- Dr. Rau also lectures on Public Health – legal and Ethical issues at The Yale University (USA) as a visiting faculty.
- Dr. Rau had been appointed as an adjunct visiting faculty at the Drexel School of Medicine (Philadelphia –USA).
- iCONGO/Kemka Foundation conferred Dr. Ashok Rau the Civil Society Citizen Karmaveer Puraskaar – Noble Laureate 2008 for his cutting edge work in the Substance Abuse/ HIV/AIDS work through the Freedom Foundation Trust.
- Letter of appreciation of the work being done at the foundation from Mr. George Bush (Former First lady ; President of the United States of America) on Mrs. Laura Bush’s visit and interaction with the women and children of our Hyderabad HIV/AIDS facility (March 2006).
Sustainability of childcare initiatives are always a challenge due to the long term & diversified nature of rehabilitation involved especially residential programs for long stay. Sustainability is perceived from a dual perspective namely project specific (financial, human resource & infrastructure) and child specific. From a child perspective the sustainable goal is successful rehabilitation that includes education and vocational education training (VET) that makes the child eligible for employment in today’s industry. Once achieved the child then moves out of the home to sustain himself/herself on the outside..
- This project sustains through a combination of donor driven funds along with local contribution that is achieved through various fund raising drives. Another drive is online giving portals where small & mid size project specific needs are posted for limited or ongoing duration of time, one such portal is Give India.
- Infrastructure wise this project operates out of rented space that is very challenging, limited and always changing. The cost of rentals and other overhead expenses have to be borne from donor driven funds. Due to this impermanence the project has had to shift to various locations.