HIV (and its result, AIDS) affects more than just the one infected. It tears apart families, leaves children without parental protection, and makes people vulnerable to tremendous stigma from their surrounding community. SIM is proud to partner with Shalom, a Christian ministry whose staff members conduct home visits, offer counseling, provide medical care, and hold youth meetings to help each member of the family deal with the trauma inflicted by HIV.
Meet four of the women offering care to this marginalized community.
Persis joined Shalom as a volunteer. "I was the loudest person here and did everything wrong. I thought surely they wouldn't keep me on but I have grown."
She is now a coordinator for Shalom's Adolescent Program. The program is for adolescents growing up in families with HIV/AIDS to help them deal with the impact of the epidemic in their lives and provide opportunities for them to develop personally.
"Teaching my children has taught me. Seeing them able to make huge choices that could change the course of their lives…one girl was pressured by her boyfriend to have sexual relations with him or he would break up with her. She left him and in doing so she also lost all of her friends. That was a huge step for her." A lot of the children in the program, even at 10 years of age, cannot write. "One boy, I remember used to get so frustrated that he would tear his papers to bits because he couldn't get it. He had to commit. And today he is a peer leader teaching other kids to write."
Melanie joined Shalom in 2012 as a volunteer and soon after became a staff member. Now she is a project assistant for Shalom's Adolescent Program. She works with children 10-13 years of age. "They need someone to talk to. These kids get to express themselves here where they can't at home. We give them the freedom to be open, to express their opinions freely."
Prayga remembers one couple who "fought all of the time. I was visiting this couple one day and they were fighting. They were about to kill each other. Then the wife left. She poured kerosene oil all over herself and was about to light herself on fire. I made her drop the matches and scrubbed her with shampoo and soap. Then I took her to the hospital because after putting on kerosene oil a strange kind of skin allergy came all over her body. I managed to get the wife and husband back together after they calmed down and were no longer fighting. On my way home in the metro, nobody would sit near to me because I smelled so strongly of kerosene oil. One lady came up to me and asked if I was going to commit suicide. I can never forget that incident. Somehow I was able to save that woman about to light herself on fire."
Pragya brought the couple to Shalom and counseled the woman. Today the couple are very happy and have a healthy marriage. "They told me later that if I had not come that one day to their house that there would have been disaster."
"When I heard about Shalom's work with Transgenders and those who are HIV positive I was so scared," Sheeba says. She came to Shalom in 2011 during Bible college for a 7 month internship and now visits families who are affected by HIV/AIDs and Transgender communities.
"But slowly as I started working I realized Shalom was giving complete holistic care for people who are rejected by society, who are completely marginalized. Shalom offered emotional, mental and physical support. I realized this big need that the world longs for and my perspective changed. When I started visiting HIV positive families I could see there was no hope among them. And I watched as staff of Shalom reached out to these families and let them know that God still loves them and God has kept a place for them and has made them unique for Him. I could slowly see the changes in peoples' lives when we shared this hope with them, the gospel and God's love."