Rays of Hope

Rays of Hope

Project Rays of Hope  works with HIV affected/ infected children in Pune and surrounding areas focusing on their nutrition so that they can lead a healthy life and get access to the opportunities for their development. Since its initiation in 2005, Project Rays of Hope has worked with 250+ families taking care of their nutritional needs and has extended counseling services whenever needed.

Providing a glimmer of hope for children affected/infected by HIV/AIDS

Children affected by HIV/AIDS in India face numerous challenges. According to UNAIDS, India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world, and children make up a significant part of those affected. Most HIV/AIDS interventions focus on the adult population and work on prevention of the disease while very few work with HIV affected and infected children. These children often face stigma and discrimination in school and community, making it difficult for them to access healthcare, education, and other essential services. Many of them have lost one or both parents to AIDS and are left to take care of themselves, often living in poverty. They have no family or social support systems to provide care and nutrition they need to lead a healthy life, for no fault of theirs.

While ample research has been done on the gravity of medical, psychosocial, and several other related issues and trauma these children face, very little has been done to alleviate their situation.

Project Rays of Hope was started in 2005 as a pilot in collaboration with Save the Children, Canada and UK. It aimed to work with HIV infected/affected children focusing on “nutrition for education”. Starvation, malnutrition, and frequent illnesses are the major challenges addressed by Project Rays of Hope as they affect the children’s health, school continuity, and normal activities. Most of these children come from poor socio-economic backgrounds and have limited or no access to nutrition and supplements needed for them.

Over the years the project activities evolved, while the focus remained the same. The different project activities include -

Children infected/affected by HIV/AIDS are referred to Swadhar by Govt. agencies. Other children registered under the project come from the different projects of Swadhar. Rays of Home team has developed a nutrition kit based on guidelines and in consultation with doctors and dieticians, which is provided every month to these children and their families. The team also conducts quarterly home visits to ensure the progress in children. These visits are done incognito, given the associated social stigma in case of children affected by HIV/AIDS.

Rays of Hope has been supporting close to 300 families as of now. Over the years we have observed positive changes in the children whom we are supporting. The ration kits help them with access to better nutrition which leads to weight gain and reduced frequency of falling sick due to immunocompromised nature of the disease. They can attend the school regularly and carry on with routine activities.

While new medicines have significantly reduced the chances of disease passing on from mother to the new-born child, and there is awareness about the disease/ importance of nutrition, the stigma still remains…and hence the need to work with these children.

Nutrition, care, and protection for a healthy childhood and a chance to lead a normal life…