Homes of Hope
Hope through healthcare for HIV-positive children in Northeast India
When the Carmelite nuns arrived in Dimapur, Nagaland 15 years ago to operate a free healthcare clinic, they anticipated the traditional barriers of providing healthcare services to the poor. However, they soon realised another challenge would mark their work in Dimapur.Sudden and varied diseases and death plagued family after family. A husband would die, and then his wife would become ill without clear explanation. The scourge of AIDS had come to Dimapur.
Eventually, Nagaland in Northeast India would have the unenviable distinction of having the highest HIV prevalence among all Indian States: 0.88%. Furthermore Dimapur district has the highest rate in the region at 1% of the population.
In the tiny building where the nuns began their work—only 20-by-20 feet—they offered support to a widow who had lost her husband to AIDS. Then another came accompanied by her young children, homeless, with nowhere to go. The community had rejected them due to their positive diagnosis. The sisters knew they had to be the ones to care for them. With growing numbers of those affected by HIV, particularly HIV-positive orphans, they bought a small parcel of land with a tiny house and called it Chavara Home.
The Chavara Home was not an overnight success. The community initially rejected the presence of an orphanage for HIV patients and family members fearing they would contract the virus. Neighbours threw waste over the walls to discourage the sisters from staying. However, as the sisters continued to care for both adults and children, the local community slowly rallied around their work.
Today, Chavara Home is the only orphanage certified to care for HIV orphans in Nagaland, despite the high prevalence rate. Government support for medication can be limited and erratic; and hospital space even more so. Seeing the need to continue their care and support of the community, the sisters continue to provide selfless service to the HIV-positive children and adults they care for.
However, as the number of children grew and “temporary” buildings would eventually collapse, the Sisters struggled to maintain medication and proper housing and nutrition levels. Seeing not only the great need at Chavara House but also the presence of the sisters, Homes of Hope India, an NGO that supports Indian-run and -owned orphanages across India, stepped in. Homes of Hope is providing the financial support that allows the sisters to build a dormitory, assembly hall and sanitary facilities to continue their long-term commitment to the people and children of Dimapur affected by HIV.
Chavara Home and Homes of Hope India provide not only shelter, food and medication to the children and adults they care for, but a place of belonging and a reason to hope for the future.