Hope Walks event helps India's AIDS orphans
Special to the Enterprise
Davis Enterprise, Tuesday October 13, 2009 (page A1)
P., 18 is healthier and happier now that he's taking medications for his HIV. Says Koen Van Rompay, founder of Sahaya International, which provides live-saving support to AIDS patients in rural India. P. "has hope once again".
Local residents can make a difference in the lives of AIDS orphans and other children in southern India by participating in the third annual Hope Walks Davis on Sunday, Oct. 18, in Arroyo Park.
For the past two years, Hope Walks Davis has given participants the opportunity to address problems in the world caused by AIDS.
"We walked, sang, ate energy bars, drank lemonade, played games, and listened to people talk about their hopes for an AIDS-free future," said Davis resident Koen Van Rompay, a Hope Walks organizer.
"Together we also raised approximately $16,800 to provide for the basic needs of orphans and vulnerable children in India," he added. "This money makes a huge difference in the lives of young children – it provides food, clothing, shelter, school fees, uniforms and basic health care including HIV testing and treatment."
Hope Walks will return to Davis from 2 to 4 p.m., Oct. 18, at Arroyo Park in West Davis. Organized by Sahaya International, St. James Catholic Church, the Cal Aggie Christian Association (CA House), First Baptist Church and International House Davis, the event features a one-mile walk followed by children's games, live music and other educational activities for all ages.
Van Rompay, founder of Sahaya International and an International House board member, visits southern India at least once a year where he meets the children who are receiving help.
"Many generous Davis residents have helped us build schools there and are sponsoring orphans. Davis residents have visited these programs and both they and I can assure you of the big difference we make on the lives of children in India,” Van Rompay said.
He recalled meeting an HIV-infected boy, P. in 2003.
“Both his parents died of AIDS, so P. had moved in with his grandmother. But his grandmother was very old and unable to give him the care he needed. He was depressed and constantly battled opportunistic infections including tuberculosis and skin infections. His clothes were dirty. He was solely responsible for his own health.”
After encouragement from the Sahaya International staff, and thanks to the support of people in Davis, P. now lives with an uncle who is able to take care of him. Pandian also began taking his medications, including anti-HIV drugs.
“In December 2008 I saw P., now age 18,” added Van Rompay. “He looks a lot healthier with his skin and eye infections improved and he has grown taller. He looks a lot happier and smiles now that he has hope once again. Witnessing his transformation over the course of five years has given me a renewed sense of hope for him as well as for many other children.”
Many Indian children have lost both parents to AIDS; some of them have been taken in by elderly grandparents barely able to eke out a meager leaving. Some children are also infected with HIV and must travel by bus for up to six hours to receive their medications monthly at the nearest hospital. In school, they are sometimes shunned by other students.
"The problem seems overwhelming, but many small contributions add up to a lot of help," added Van Rompay.
"Come walk with us on Oct. 18. Together we can spread the word that AIDS is a treatable disease that can be challenged by education and caring; together, we can make a difference and provide hope to many children."
All proceeds raised by Hope Walks Davis will be sent to the Sahaya programs in Southern India. You may also contact Van Rompay to sponsor an AIDS orphan at $30 a month.
For more information on Hope Walks Davis, to register and create an online fundraising page to help the children in India, visit www.sahaya.org and www.hopewalks.org/davis.