Park Grove Methodist Church
DINDIGUL AIDS CONTROL SOCIETY – DACS
Anbagam Children’s Home
Annual Report 2014 to 2015
I have recently visited the DACS project once again. I continue to be inspired by the work I see going on there, and I’m not the only one. The work that Mr Thankachan does is so well respected that experts in HIV and AIDS from all over India come to visit. Their main aim – to find out why the mortality rate at DACS is so low. Mr Thankachan explains that it is not rocket science, just careful administration of drugs, a good diet, a focus on cleanliness and sanitation – and an abundance of loving care.
So how has the project changed since it began back in 2004? Perhaps the best way to explain would be to look at the lives of a few of the children who have found a home there.
Kathiravan joined the DACS project in 2006 when he was in 4th Std. He is now the oldest child there at 17 (he will be 18 in May). Both of his parents were HIV positive and died, leaving him and his siblings orphans. He was the only one of the three, who was HIV positive, but his older brother has since died of cancer and his younger sister suffers with kidney problems. The children were cared for by an aunt after the death of their parents, and when she found out that Kathiresan was HIV positive she brought him to the DACS project to get the care and medication she was unable to provide.
.Kathiresan still has contact with his family and is visited by his aunt once a year. He is a bright young man, although his short-term memory has been affected by a fever he had whilst studying for his 10th grade exams.
Jabanesan and Hasini are the youngest children at the project. Jabanesan was born during September 2014. His mother is a widow and has not re-married so her child is the result of an ‘illegal pregnancy’. His mother knew that she was HIV positive and would not be able to care for him on her own; she also knew that she would get no support in the village because her child was born outside of marriage. After refusing to feed Jabanesan for the first two days of his life his mother abandoned him at the hospital. All abandoned children are taken in by the government and tested. If they do not have HIV they go to government homes where they are cared for in the hope that they may be adopted. The children with HIV are sent to DACS. Jabanesan arrived at the project when he was two days old – one could say that that was the day his life began.
Hasini was born in October 2014. Both her mother and father were HIV positive. Her father died in the months before she was born, as well as being HIV positive her mother is also handicapped due to polio and was unable to hold the baby properly. Knowing that Hasini could never be cared for at home she was sent to DACS on the day that she was born.
Mohan, aged 14, is one of the original inmates at DACS who were rescued by Mr Thankachan in 2004. Mr Thankachan had been told that they were sleeping rough at a Chennai TB hospital and brought them to Dindigul. The children had been abandoned and were finding food from rubbish tips. Mohan is the only one of the six original children who is still alive. In the eleven years since he came to Dindigul Mohan has seen friends come and go, and it is sad to say that the only way most children leave this project is when they die.
There have been forty eight deaths since the project started, mostly during the first few years. In those days the children were housed in a cramped old house, far different from the conditions they now live in (which I described briefly in last year’s report). As a testimony to Mr Thankachan’s care, there have been no deaths at the project since 2010. Mohan explained to me that his whole life is different now.
‘When I came here we had so little space that we almost had to lie on top of each other to sleep. Now we have new rooms with much more space. Before we just had rice and sambar to eat, but now we get different food. We have a proper diet with veg and non veg food. When I first came we only had vegetarian food because there was no money, Uncle (Mr Thankachan) says that is part of the reason why children died – because they didn’t get protein. Now we have a balanced diet. We have proper medicines now, too. The government should give free medicine to children like us but they didn’t a few years ago. We went on a protest fast which was in the newspapers and the government started to give us the drugs. The government is very helpful to us now. I can remember when we couldn’t go to school because people were afraid of HIV children, but the government has said they must take us, and now we get a good education and are treated well at the school. We have a van and an ambulance which people have given to us so that we can get to school and hospital.