Solomon Raj juggles three jobs to support the 36 HIV positive children he has adopted. Vipasha Sinha on how his family grew so big

Solomon Raj is a proud ‘father’ of 36 children and he juggles three jobs to meet their expenses, most of which are medical.

HIV positive, these children had been abandoned by relatives when Solomon took them under his wings. He set up Shelter Trust, where he is assisted by 11 staff, who are also HIV Positive, to take care of these children.

Solomon had not planned on taking care of these children: He was happily married and had a comfortable job, but when he and his wife did not have a child after eight years of marriage, he considered adoption. “I wanted to bring home a child who needed more care than others, such as a diifferently-abled or HIV positive child. My family had reservations about it. Before I could go ahead with the plan, my wife got pregnant and we soon had our own child,” says Solomon.

However, the guilt of not going in for adoption nagged him. Then in 2005, a friend mentioned a seven year-old-boy to Solomon. “I had consulted this friend when I was thinking about adopting. Months later she got in touch with me about this boy who needed a good home immediately. Initially I declined, but when I heard story about the boy, I changed my mind. This kid had seen six HIV related deaths in his family – mother, father and siblings. He was the lone survivor, with only a few days to live,” says Solomon.

After convincing his family, he brought the child home. But, the problem didn’t end there. “Since both my wife and I were working, we had to leave the child home and within no time we realised, this would be more torturous for the child. I started taking him with me to work. Initially, everyone was nice, but once they knew about his medical condition they started isolating us.

They would not talk, would not even use the toilet we used. I then decided to adopt another HIV positive kid so that both of them could stay home and keep each other company,” says Solomon.

Soon the word began to spread and people started coming to him with abandoned children with HIV. “I lived in a one BHK apartment and the space was not enough for all of us. I quit my job to focus on bringing up these children. We also moved in to a bigger house,” says Solomon adding that the finding a house was a task in itself. He had to shift a couple of houses till he bought a place in Red Hills.

Finding people to support the kids with their chores and most importantly managing their expenses were his biggest challenges. “When I began this project, I approached a businessman for financial support. He was receptive to the idea at first. But, when I asked if he would sponsor one of the six children living with me. I was taken aback by his response. He called it a ‘waste investment,’ as the child wouldn’t be around for long. It was then I decided that I would not go asking for funds. As their father, it was my responsibility to give them a good life” he says.

The same kids who people thought would not survive are still alive and lead regular lives. A proud father, Solomon says: “My children are very talented. One of them even made it to the top seven of a dance reality show. Another kid won the first place at a painting competition. Proper medical attention has ensured a normal life for the children. They all go to nearby schools, where their condition has not been revealed,” he says.

Solomon is working on a module where 365 people can adopt a day, where they meet that day’s basic expenses. “Though there are many who come forward to support us, we also encourage them to come and spend time with the children as most of them have lost all their family members,” he says.

Solomon, his wife and two biological kids take care of the Shelter Home at Shelter Trust, No.167, Revathy Nagar, Villan Gadu Pakkam, Red Hills.

For details, call 94444 55275.

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