Every mother wants the best for her children, but not all are put in a position to give it to them: poverty, disease, abandonment... are all factors that prevent this natural maternal tendency. So, too, war, perhaps the worst possible impediment. In remembrance of the suffering of so many war-affected mothers around the world, who mourn for themselves, their children, and their families, we share today the testimony of Yulia, a Ukrainian mother, who was at least lucky enough to be welcomed and supported by the Salesians of Poland.
In a few days, it will be 15 months since Russia has invaded Ukraine. "February 24, 2022, was a moment we did not expect and that brought us much suffering," affirms from Spain Fr. Mykhaylo Chaban, Salesian Superior of the "Mary Help of Christians" vice-province of Greek Catholic Ukraine (UKR), where he is at the invitation of "Misiones Salesianas," the Salesian Mission Office of Madrid, to speak about the situation in his country and the work of the Congregation at this phase.
Don Bosco Care Home is a Salesian home that provides medical care and support to children with HIV/AIDS, located in the village of Nilavarapatti in the district of Salem in Tamil Nadu, India and thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions, has a new dormitory and toilets.
Don Bosco Care Home has been working for almost a decade to bring awareness about HIV/AIDS and improve medical treatment for children who have been infected. Salesians provide medical care, promote positive thinking and work to break the social stigma.
For the youth in their care, Salesians with Don Bosco Care Home provide food, nutrition, medical care, education, recreation and counseling. The home was also given approval from the government to start a special school on the campus. The number of youth at the home has risen from 73 in 2019 to the current 83 youth. As a result, Salesians needed to expand both living and bathroom facilities.
Thanks to Salesian Missions, Salesians constructed a multipurpose community hall with a dormitory and additional toilet block. The hall can be used as a space where all the youth take part in health camps and motivational programs and games. The new toilet facilities allow for a more hygienic environment for the youth. The project was completed in 2022.
One student explained how being at Don Bosco Care Home impacted his life. R. Sethupathi said, “I am an orphan boy in grade 10. When I joined Don Bosco Care Home, my CD4 count was 250. After joining here, my CD4 count has increased to 369. This is due to the nutritious food, healthy environment and friends. I have been here for the past four years and all my needs are taken care of by Don Bosco Care Home. I am healthy and happily growing here. I extremely thankful for those who have helped me at Don Bosco Care Home.”
The first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in India in Tamil Nadu in 1986, and today there are 2.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, according to U.N. AIDS. Close to 39% of those infected with HIV are women.
Entrenched gender inequalities, chronic and debilitating poverty, and stubborn persistence of HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination significantly contribute to the continuing spread of the infection and hinder those who test positive from seeking treatment. Even young children with HIV/AIDS have been rejected by their families and local communities.
At Don Bosco Care Home, the boys receive counseling, recreation opportunities, medical observation and critical antiretroviral therapy treatments (ART). Some of the boys live at the home and have access to services and educational programs there while others, including those who attend the local polytechnic college, have access to the program’s ART treatments and then return to their own homes.
The program has been particularly effective because youth are able to study and build peer relationships in a safe and supportive environment free from the stigma and rejection they previously encountered. In addition to their school studies, boys take care of the animals and birds at the facility, and work the land cultivating fruits and vegetables. They also participate in sports each day, and special programs are provided including comedy, singing and dancing.
To find out more about the life-saving work of the Salesians in India, click here!
With thanks to ANS for this story
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