P. SUJATHA VARMA
Having parents affected with AIDS, a group of children courageously face life."It's a fresh battle every day. Fighting stigma at every step is a daunting task. But united we fought until the world conceded that we also deserve a life of dignity," said little Nagajyothi. Narrating horrifying tales that unfolded in her life after the death of her parents due to AIDS, the 10-year-old girl said she was now more resolute in facing life. A Std. V student from Vuyyuru mandal, Nagajyothi was told to leave the school by the management, as it thought that allowing her to continue in the school would upset other parents. The nightmare, however, did not last long, thanks to the intervention of the Rotary Community Trust (RCT), which sensitised the staff prompting them to re-admit the girl.
Recounting lifeFifteen-year-old Achyut is a Std. IX student from VAMBAY Colony. He was forced to work as a helper to a cycle mechanic following the death of his father a couple of years ago. "Our travails began when our neighbours came to know that my father had died of AIDS. They wouldn't allow us to go near them and any association with our family was taboo," he recalled in a choked voice. The children recounted a saga of pain and anguish they were made to undergo for no fault of theirs. Subramanyam's success story provided a ray of hope to many. The boy, from Chilakaluripet in Guntur district, had no clue what AIDS meant when his father got the virus a few years ago. "My family was shattered," he recollected narrating how his mother was forced to take up a small job to eke out a living. "My sister learnt tailoring to help my mother in maintaining the house. Life is back on the rails thanks to members of a local NGO who came to our rescue," said the boy.
To act boldIt was an interactive session with vice-chairman of the National Knowledge Commission P.M. Bhargava, who said that he felt very small compared to the indomitable courage of the young ones. "The best way to feel courageous is to act bold until you actually feel bold," he advised. The informal chat session was organised by Vasavya Mahila Mandali, a local non-governmental organisation working for rehabilitation of children affected by AIDS. Nagul Meera, 11 years, is struggling to eke out a living by selling sweets door-to-door. But there are no takers for his sweets, most of which are brought home untouched. "My ailing mother has tested HIV positive. I need to buy medicines," said the boy. The vulnerable plight of the children, which is in stark contrast to their steely grit to overcome hurdles, touched all. "The world belongs to those who convert adversity into opportunity," said Mr. Bhargava. The children have formed child support groups not just to help one another but also to sensitise the world about the several misconceptions prevailing on AIDS.