Holi provided a welcome break from exam revision.
Mortality at all time low
We have amazing news! Thanks to your support we are incredibly happy to say that for the first time in our 27-year history we have completed the financial year without enduring the heartbreak of reporting that one or more of our beneficiaries has died as a result of HIV or AIDS. This is the lowest our child HIV mortality rate has ever been.
You should take credit in knowing that your support has directly enabled us to make some simple but significant changes in the support and care we offer. Thanks to you, we’ve been able to improve our Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART), introduce more exercise into daily routines to delay beginning drug treatment and adapt our menus introducing more vitamins and nutrition from our farm grown produce. Also very importantly our record-keeping to monitor beneficiary development and identify any issues earlier has been improved.
Healthier longer, fitter and stronger
Although the introduction of organic food direct from our Himmatgram (find out more about our farm project here) means we now know what is going into our food, following consultation with a dietitian we are taking further steps to increase fruit, nuts and dairy into our meals whilst continuing to reduce salt and sugar intakes. This is important, along with regulated meal timings, to maintain the effectiveness of our ART medication.
We all know that exercise is good for you and the children here love to take part in recreational and competitive activities. On top of traditional Indian games such as Kabbadi, we’ve introduced football and volleyball. Being active is not only good for the body, it’s good for the spirit. Most Olympians couldn’t match the pride that our Balbhavan children experienced when they swept the board with 80% of the prizes at our Inter-sports day.
Educating for Empowerment
We believe it is our responsibility to equip our children with the life skills they will need to stand on their own feet once they leave our care. Living in the World’s largest democracy we know that educating them on their rights to have their say on their lives and environment is essential. Therefore, we are proud to announce the inauguration of our Child Parliament.
Following consultation, our children, with support and guidance from a Bangalore NGO with a similar initiative, created their own government structure and held independent elections. All 11 dormitories now have a Chief Minister and a Cabinet made up of Health, Education, Cultural, Sport, Law and Opposition Ministers, who each have two helpers, ensuring that everyone has a role to play.
The Chief Ministers, Cabinet and full Parliament all meet separately, twice a month, consulting with their constituents to bring forward matters for wider discussion or the attention of our staff. The children are absolutely loving being able to have their say and air their issues openly and we are learning so much more about how we can better support and develop them. With dedicated representatives able to directly discuss issues with those experiencing them, they are also finding their own solutions to problems and we are reaping the rewards with radical rises in school and exercise attendance.
It’s inspiring how seriously they take their personal development and education and for the past few month many have been studiously revising for their State Board exams. We have 17 children currently taking 10th standard exams and eight their 11th standard. We are expecting great things from them and to help them achieve this we arranged Skype meetings with an educational counsellor from Mumbai and guest lectures and motivational talks from exceptional local teachers. Some also took mock examinations giving them invaluable to build their confidence. They will receive their final results in June.
This commitment is why we already have 34 students currently enrolled in college and once exams are over we are planning visits to further and higher education institutions so our 10th and 11th standard students can investigate their own career choices. You can read more and support our education programme here.
Priya says thank you in becoming a local leader
One former beneficiary who realised her career dreams is Priya, who devastatingly lost both her parents to HIV. Staying with relatives in a small village near Ahmednagar shortly afterwards, she also fell sick. Lab tests confirmed Priya was HIV+ and suffering from tuberculosis. She was outcast by her own family and villagers, her schooling was stopped and everyone started telling her that she too would die soon.
Priya was shattered, not so much at the thought of death, but at being unable to fulfil her ambition of joining the Police. When we heard her tragic story we reached out to her, bringing her to Snehalaya for medical treatment and some much needed emotional and moral support. We encouraged Priya to continue her studies, providing books, tuition and physical training, so that once she passed the state exams she could compete with other candidates to qualify for Police training.
Priya is India’s first known HIV+ policewoman, setting a great example for the many other boys and girls at Snehalaya who are studying hard to achieve their own career dreams without discrimination. With your continued support we know we can create many more role models like Priya.
Many thanks for staying a constant support to Snehalaya so we can continue to improve the lives of all of our beneficiaries and, like Priya, ensure they acheive their ambitions.
Priya's Police Passing Out Parade.
The children take turns to prepare Sunday dinners.
Our Child Parliament represents all ages.