First, however, we were taken out to Kirtipur on the hilly outskirts of Kathmandu to meet a most remarkable man and learn how his compassionate love is changing the world for the better, one child at a time.
Simply told, Raj Kumar read and was deeply moved by a story in the local paper about the discrimination suffered by HIV-positive children in the western part of Nepal. So he left the Kathmandu Valley and went to see for himself, bringing back four HIV infected children to live in his own home for the next three years. By September 2013, Raj Kumar sold his house and is using the proceeds to care for 17 HIV+ children in a large airy rented house on a small plot of land in Kirtipur.
Children with HIV, once known to be infected, are generally shunned, refused entry to school and frequently left to live in isolation and poverty, sometimes in tiny huts on the edge of villages. The problem is worse in the regions near the Indian border. Parents who contract HIV either die or abandon their children.
Today we met the 17 children now living with Raj Kumar in clean caring surroundings, provided with food, clothes and education. Most importantly, they’ve received so much steady love that it has restored every child’s birthright – the chance to dream of a future. And dream they did! – of being doctors, engineers, dancers, teachers and a diminutive lad determined to be a rap singer.
As the children introduced themselves one by one, giving us their names, their home village, the name of their school and what they wanted to become, I marvelled at the power of one man’s love to make such a difference to their lives. Baby Life Home is the name of the place, a literal translation of what goes on within its four walls.
Kuldeep Chan, one of the HCI Gen Nep volunteers, has taken on a leadership role in supporting the project and looking to see whether a steady source of income can be found to maintain the home, pay the teachers and the rent, and provide for all the physical needs of the children (food, clothes, medicines, school books, stationary etc). One option is individual child sponsorship, another is HCI fundraising efforts from within the Kathmandu community.
This is just one project of many that fit under the loose banner of ‘Sakdaw’, efforts to promote harmony between different elements of Nepali society. Other examples include the School for School project, in which a rich school adopts and shares its excess resources with a poor school in a nearby district; a project to support the children of parents serving time in prison, who frequently become forgotten casualties; an effort to tackle hunger across the valley.
It is a sheer pleasure and privilege to meet these young people from HCI – they are putting their ideals into practice and forging a new future for Nepal.