Imagine how a child would feel to learn not only that it had been abandoned by its family but also that it was HIV positive. That’s right – you can’t. But that’s the grim situation faced by the young inhabitants of Baan Gerda: a small community in Lopburi province where 85 HIV-positive children, mostly orphans, live and receive medical care under the care of foster parents.
Opened in 2001, the initial aim of Baan Gerda, a project of the Children’s Rights Foundation (a Bangkokbased NGO), was simply to ease the suffering of kids with AIDS – to be a hospice in other words. But the advent of anti-retroviral medicines means they now focus on providing what state orphanages and other charitable institutions can’t: life-saving drugs, the love and care of a close-nit family structure and education.
Children are grouped into several families, each one with its own house. Two parents – in most cases an HIV positive married couple – take care of about ten children. They are responsible for administering medication, housekeeping and providing a loving home environment. Most kids attend a kindergarten or school following the national curriculum. And they are encouraged to let their creativity flow forth – through drawing, music, dance and crafts.
Very far from last refuge of despair, Baan Gerda is a humbling place that brings hope, health and happiness to those left behind by their communities – and worthy of your support. Don’t just take our word for it. Here is what Sheldon Shaeffer, the former director of UNESCO Bangkok, had to say: “The many examples of children who were close to death when they first came to Baan Gerda, and who are now growing, playing, going to school and enjoying their childhood, are impressive. The dedication, love and spirit of the staff of Baan Gerda has to be commended.”
Donations can be made via the Baan Gerda website: www.baangerda.org. You can either sponsor a child for 100 euros a month or make a single one-off donation.