Her institute for orphaned or abandoned HIV-infected children gives them a shot at normal life.
It is only rarely that you know what your purpose in life is meant to be. A few know their calling loud and clear, the rest of us will be lucky to stumble on to our life’s mission at some point. But it is not how you know, but how you go about fulfilling that mission is what counts. That is what sets the winners apart.
It was while on duty at the Institute of Child Health doing what she then thought she ought to be doing, that Manorama Pinakapani discovered the real thing she was meant to do. “Two children, a boy and a girl were admitted, ten years ago. Both of them had tested positive for HIV and Hepatitis B and had been brought in by an orphanage. The boy developed jaundice, and since I was the paediatric gastroenterologist, they came under my care. Despite being discharged, the boy kept coming back to the hospital many times,” she remembers.
“When I checked, the orphanage was quite frank; they couldn’t take care of children who were HIV positive. I asked casually, “If you don’t want them, should I take them?” The answer was a resounding yes.
And that’s how, in 1993, the doctor’s life entwined irrevocably with the fortunes of children infected and affected by HIV. She went on to start Community Health Education Society (CHES) to take care of these two children. Today, about a hundred children have stayed on at the home where they were admitted as children. Over the years, the home — and the school started subsequently to take care of their educational needs — have let 300 children catch their breath and feel at home before moving on with their lives.
“Medical interventions, such as the anti-retroviral therapy, have made a huge difference to these kids. With ART drugs taken as prescribed, good nutrition, a happy atmosphere created by the staff, my children are not only thriving, but doing so well. A batch just passed their 12and 10 Board examinations,” says Pinakapani, who is also an expert in Juvenile Justice and has served as chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee under the Juvenile Justice Board.
Not all the children at CHES are HIV positive; some have simply been abandoned by their families, while some are the children of female sex workers, and some have been rescued from trafficking.
After all, once you open your arms wide, you can scarcely regulate who walks in to bask in the warmth of that hearty contact.
Manorama Pinakapani, Childcare Hero