March 30, 2013
My official business here in Chennai India wrapped up with a breakfast meeting this morning. Since my flight doesn't leave until 1:45am I had some extra time. So I arranged to visit a small orphanage about an hour outside of the main city. This orphanage is home for 17 children who are both unparented and HIV positive. I say unparented because many do still have at least one living parent but due to AIDS that parent is no longer able to care for their child.
The kids mostly appeared healthy and well nourished. They smiled easily and with exceptional poise and charm each shook my hand, introduced him or herself and warmly welcomed me. They then sang several songs and performed a few Bollywood styled dances. They even got me to dance with them...I told you, charmers!
The director explained that due to prejudice and fears about aids the younger kids do not know of their medical condition and the older kids have been trained to keep it secret. This is the only way they can attend the regular schools without being shunned.
Before I left I gave each child a small gift...a pair of running shoes ( the director provided each child's name and shoe size before I came). They were pretty excited to receive their new Easter shoes.
As I drove back to my hotel I couldn't help but think about how many times I've had these encounters with unparented, poor, and vulnerable children.
And I wondered is there anything I can do to truly make a difference?