I have now been at Faith, the children’s home in Jaipur, for almost a week. There are 16 children and they are a great bunch – 4 girls and 12 boys. Kushal, who is 20 and gave up his job in the hospital to work at Faith, lives there and looks after the children. And there is a housekeeper (Aunty) from Bengal who has just arrived, and her husband. Everyone else volunteers, two Indian boys today, and a Belgian girl called Pauline who has been here for 4 months and leaves soon. Here is a picture of the children looking at photographs of their holiday in Goa on Smriti's laptop.
All the children are HIV positive except Gotam who has full-blown Aids. Smriti Singh started the home 6 years ago and she loves and nurtures them all. She is full of hope for the children, and says medicine is improving all the time. Every day when she arrives in the afternoon they all rush out and hug her and touch her feet and she spends 2 or 3 hours talking and laughing with them. They are a very happy and healthy-looking lot. Except Gotam.
She is immensely proud of the children (she says, 'no not proud... pleased’ but I say she should be proud!) because they are doing so well. Most arrived from hospital in a pitiful state, with painful sores and broken skin, and now have just a few scars. One boy has some sort of tumour growing on his neck which is being treated but otherwise the children look unbelievably fit. Gotam is the exception. I think he is 8 but he is miniscule, he comes up to my waist and his limbs are like sticks.
Smriti has been telling me that everyone must spend time with him because he is much better than he was. He can walk about and sit up, though he spends a lot of time sleeping. And if no one pays attention to him, he gets sick again. The other children are so sweet and play with him and lie down next to him. He is a little Prince. In April he spent several weeks in hospital with an infection, but he pulled through and is getting stronger. In two weeks I will go with them to the hospital for their medical checks. They have immunity strengthening/anti viral treatment. At the home they have vitamins and some have individual medicines.
Lunch arrives every day in a van from somewhere - here is Aunty doling out dhal.
The house has an open downstairs room with a kitchen behind and also at the back is a bedroom where some of the boys sleep. There is a bathroom off it. The bathrooms aren’t great –they are clean, just basic. I just hope I can wait until I get back to Smriti’s house..
Upstairs there is a room where the girls sleep (and another bathroom), another where the older boys are, and a work room – for homework I think but it’s holidays so I haven’t been in there. There is another flight of stairs which I think is storage and I suppose where Kushal sleeps. There is no garden, just a little bit of yard behind the kitchen, but they talk about the park where they play. It’s just too hot to go there at the moment.
Smriti has a strict duties rota – everyone helps to clean the bathrooms, fold the laundry, put out the mats for lunch, help serve lunch, fill the water for the air cooler. Yesterday extra help was needed because the water in the house ran out. A tractor arrived towing a water tank and hoses had to be hoisted up to the roof and also downstairs through the house to the kitchen.
On Friday and Saturday we did computer class which involved going in a bus to a technical college, arranged through an NGO, for students there to help the children with computer skills. The first day was a bit of a riot, but yesterday we were stricter..! Today is Sunday and a day of rest.