Palawi provides care-home for orphan children living with HIV. It is the first institution of such kind in Maharashtra India. India is home to the world’s largest population of HIV-positive orphans. Unfortunately, the number continues to rise. These children face staggering risks and typically die young or live on the streets. Palawi opened its arms to HIV-positive orphans to create a care-home in 2001 at Pandharpur, Maharashtra. The care-home was founded on the belief that all children have a fundamental right to a loving, fun-filled childhood with access to health, education and safe and stigma free environment. Today at Palawi cares for 110 children between the age of four months and twenty-one years. All children are from Maharashtra state. They have been referred to Palawi by child-care institutions, orphanages, hospitals and other NGOs.
The society is suffering from lack of awareness and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS. Due to this, many innocent children are abandoned at various places like railway stations, ST stands, graveyards, etc. As per Government information there are more than 70000 children in India who are living with HIV and need help. HIV infection is not just an incurable disease, it brings with it the unbearable saga of discrimination from society. The orphan children who lost their parents to AIDS struggle to survive when the society discards them. These children are deprived of affection, support and protection.
Mangaltai Shah started her social work after getting married at a young age of 16. She along with her 10-year-old young daughter used to volunteer at different orphanages and help leprosy patients, destitute women, sex workers, etc. in Solapur district of Maharashtra. One day when Magaltai and her daughter Dimple were working to create awareness about HIV/ AIDS among the sex workers/ prostitute in Pandharpur, they was informed about two girl children aged 2.5 years and 1.5 years who were abandoned in a cow shed. She went to the village to enquire about the infants lying discarded in such conditions. She found out that these girls were sisters and their parents had died due to AIDS. Both the girls were HIV+ and so their relatives had abandoned them as they thought that they brought shame and the risk of infection to the entire family. Mangaltai persuaded the villagers to look after these girls but they refused to take the girls inside their homes. At that very moment, Mangaltai and her young daughter decided to take the two girls at their own home and try and find an orphanage for HIV+ children. They provided the young girls a good bath and food. The next day they realized that there are no homes for HIV+ children in the district of Solapur and also in the entire Maharashtra. At this point Mangaltai with her courage, compassion and love started to provide shelter and care to such children and decided to build a care home for HIV+ children herself. Started with just 2 children in 2001, today 110 children are taken care of by Mangaltai and her daughter. The care home named ‘Palawi’ means the ‘new leaves of a plant’ in Marathi. Today Palawi is managed by Mangaltai and her whole family including her grand chdilren.
Motivation to live inspite of all the physical struggles is an essential virtue to have for these HIV+ children. Affection, healthcare and education is provided to all the 110 children at Palawi. Nutritious food is provided to help them become stronger to fight the disease. They are taught to make different artwork and handicrafts. They are encouraged to play for enough time as the sportsman spirit increases their enthusiasm towards life. They also perform theater plays in various cities in Maharashtra every year so that the children connect with the outside world. Mangaltai has stood by these children as a pillar of strength in all these years. Playing with a baby whose sister has recently passed away, she says, “What is the fault of these siblings who were brought irresponsibly into the world?” Many infants have breathed their last in the lap of Mangaltai. The risk of the health of an HIV+ child deteriorating is always there. However, Mangaltai strives to bring cheer and happiness in the lives of the children who continue to battle with the disease every single day.
In the case of HIV positive children education intrinsically offer hope, as it always has, that individuals and communities may rise above any circumstances. Unfortunately, education, just like health and social support is hardly accessible to the HIV- positive children. Palawi has established its own Educational Unit since getting a formal education for HIV+ children at any formal school was strenuous due to social stigma attached to it. Also, proper medical care is an extremely important part of the lives of these vulnerable children. Due to low immunity, these children are susceptible to variety of infections and providing medical treatment for 110 children requires a lot of funds.
Palawi needs your help
The daily expense at Palawi for the food, medical care, housing, education for 110 children and staff salaries is Rs. 15000. Palawi is struggling to raise funds to meet its daily expenses due to a major set back of Coronavirus. Many of their donors have backed out due to the effects of the lockdown. A lot of lives depend on the successful operation of Palawi and the support of people will ensure that Mangalatai continues her inspiring work to provide hope and love to the 110 HIV+ children at Palawi.