“Tough this children look happy and cheerful now..emotionally, they are sad” says Solomon as he looks on to the few kids grinning besides him posing for the camera.
“Can you see the little girl over there? The dark one” he said. I looked toward his stretched finger and see a girl not more than 8 years, smilling in a confused way at the many cameras flashing in front of her. “One day she came up to me and asked me ‘appa do you not love me because i am black?’ i realise then” Solomon continued despondently, “that she is searching for the love and care that has been deprived from her by the parents”.
As Mr. Solomon continued to answer our queries, more students had joined the little ones from ‘the Shelter Trust’ for the photo session in front of the banner ‘World’s Aids, Dec-2012’.
Mr Solomon presently runs a home for the HIV infected children called Shelter Trust. The children are as young as 3 1/2 years, and the oldest at 16 years. There are a total of 33 children in his trust at present.
Though not much aid had been received from the government other than in the form of ART tablets, Solomon says ‘i am positive in my attitude’. He is currently a Ph.d scholar in the university if madras in the Religion and philosophy department.
Solomon started the Trust solely with the aim of provide a home for the ‘unfortunate’ children who he says, ‘are innocent victims of somebody else’s fault’. He first started taking care of the infected children who are left unwanted in the hospital. Then as the number of children grew the needs of the home also grew.
At present the economic needs of the shelter are met by well wishers and friends. He also works as the co-ordinator for domestic worker and with an NGO to support both the shelter and his family economically.
Solomon who is the father of two children himself says he feels the emotional competition between the kids to gain his attention. ’How much of myself, my portion can i give to them?” he says inquiringly. When i asked if he is the only person taking care of the 33 children, he replies beamingly, that there are 7 staffs employed in the shelter as of now. What is even more interesting is that all the staffs are also HIV position persons that there.
Not only are the children cared for and sent to a regular schools, a number of recreation activities are also provided for to amuse themselves. “they have their own carom board , chess, toys and reading room” even a television he said. They are also taken out on picnics, to parks, MGM and even to the beach.
When i glanced toward the crowd of children a few feet away, i noticed the same boy who had earlier entertain the event with his dance moves and was awarded with a loud and long standing applause from the whole school. Solomon may or may not have noticed but he went on to say that some of the children are exceptionally ‘talented’. They do ‘excellent artwork’ he said, one of them had won the first title in a competition in Loyola college. ‘he won the first title out of 400 people’ he says, with the enthusiasm of a proud father.
The trust which started 8 years ago when he adopted an orphaned child infected with Aids, is now a proud shelter taking care of 33 HIV positive children. It is located in Red Hills of Chennai.
Things had been really challenging for him from the beginning both emotionally and physically. Though he says he has done what he thinks is best, he admits that there are two things that he will never be able to do for them. ”...they start crying ‘i want my mommy, i want my daddy to come’ ..if a child is crying i want his particular pen, i can go buy a pen for them..but where do you expect me to buy a mommy and daddy for them?”. This he says is ‘pretty depressing’ for him and the staff. Another problem is that even if he has all the money in the world there is no cure for the children which he says is unfair on the innocent children.
Some of the children in the shelter have single alive parents, he says but he is still the ‘Appa’ to all the kids and he believes it is his duty to be impartial in his treatment.” When a particular child falls sick”, he explains,” and needs extra care and attention” the other children feel threatened. What the children basically need is the love and care that they lacked and has been “deprived from them by their parents”.
When asked what else he would like add or share from his journey of 8 years, he looks adoringly at the children, than looks away and reflects for a moment. He then spoke solemnly ‘in a family, when a child falls sick, you know, the parents, how much tension that they(parent) go through, here it is different..now i know for sure that the children are medically in compromise..that they are going to die”, he adds “it is very emotionally draining on me, to see children passing away in front of me”.