This last week I have been working from the southern city of Bangalore in the state of Karnataka where our 3rd partner Infant Jesus Children’s Home (IJCH) is located. It has been both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. In addition to spending time visiting the girls we sponsor, I was a tourist of sorts as this was my first time in the city. As luck would have it our Co-Founder Sumana Setty, whose family is from Bangalore, had arranged for me to stay at her aunt’s house. She, along with Sumana’s mother Rama, was gracious enough to take me around the city seeing all the sights and shopping that the “Indian Silicon Valley” had to offer. I was also able to get a good understanding directionally of Bangalore by travelling everyday on the Metro from where I was staying in the South of the city to where IJCH is in the North of city, seeing landscape and street changes along the way.
As for my visit at IJCH, there are only good things to report. Upon my arrival on the first day I was welcomed by a crowd of girls who pleasantly surprised me speaking clear English. Despite the home complex being off of a busy main road, once one enters the gates of IJCH, quiet surrounds you and it’s clear that the Nunnery tries to create a calm atmosphere for their inhabitants. This does seem rather important as the organization works with and houses only girls and women who are HIV+, often taking in sick girls at a young age who are complete orphans. When I ask the Sister Superior Estimina how the girls usually contract HIV the answer given is simply “Lifestyle”. It is understood that the father “contracts” it from someone other than the mother and then unknowingly gives it to her who then passes it to the child in birth. As medical care is not easily assessable in the villages where most of the girls come from, it is not uncommon for people to not be aware that they have the disease. Thus, it is usually only once the parents have entered the third stage, AIDS and died that the children are tested. From there the girl is brought to Infant Jesus Home by their extended family members who are too ashamed of the disease dishonoring the family or spreading to take care of them themselves. The story is a tragic one but the luck the girls have been given by being placed in this home is clearly shown to me as I walk through the well maintained and clean campus.
During my final visit at the home, I got a treat by being able to have a detailed discussion with the girls myself since their English Proficiency was so high. The topic we addressed was Confidence and Choices and once again the girls surprised me in their comprehension of both of these concepts. When talking about gender inequality in the mix, the girls mention that yes it is evident in India but they will not let it stop them. By far the funniest quote of the discussion was said by a 20 year old girl who is studying to get her BA in Arts, “Boys have it easier than girls but we girls are smarter than them so it’s ok, we can fight for what we want.” This quote in itself shows the excellent work that the sisters’ here are doing to instill confidence in the girls under their care.