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The start of Sahaya's orphan sponsorship program

In January-February 2001, our secretary Dr. Koen Van Rompay spent several weeks in the rural villages of READ and Y-NEEW. He had amazing, but also shocking experiences when he realized the low level of HIV awarenes, and how many children were seeing their parents die in front of their eyes. Together with the help of his friends, he decided to embark on a mission to raise more HIV awareness in a number of these villages. Click here to read those stories.

In December 2001, Koen went back to the villages and together with the help of Mr. Selvam, secretary of READ, they did many more HIV awareness programs. Koen also focused special attention on the destigmatization of people and families that are affected by HIV, and to educate village leaders, and leaders of the women self-help groups on the importance of promoting acceptance and out-reach for these people. Below is his letter written in January 2002.

January 2002,

Dear friends,

One of the issues that I felt is very important to discuss are the AIDS orphans. In September 2001, I attended the 3rd Conference on Global Strategies (organized by Global Strategies for HIV Prevention) in Uganda, Kampala, and had learnt a lot about the many issues surrounding AIDS orphans, and ways to secure their future. Therefore, during the previous weeks, Mr. Selvam and I asked the village leaders to help us to identify families that may be affected by HIV and are in urgent need of our support to provide a future for the children. Our efforts were paying off, and a number of people came forward to alert us that some people in their villages may be HIV-infected or may have died.

picture of boy

An example is this photograph above, which shows a 10-year old AIDS orphan, by the name of Jesuraj (which in Tamil means "King Jesus"). After his parents died a few years ago, all his relatives turned their back to him, except for his aunt (also on the picture) who decided to take care off him. All went well until a few months ago, when her husband fell sick and lost his job. Because the family wasn't able to find the resources for his food and education, they had to make the difficult decision to send him to a hostel school, which is unfortunately far away. Supposedly, Jesuraj is often very sad and homesick, and gets ill often. Often he doesn't have a good appetite, and supposedly he thinks that he is also going to die, just like his parents. But he is aware of the financial difficulties of his foster-parents, so he does his best to accept the situation. When I was in India in December, he was back with his foster-family for the Christmas holidays (his aunt couldn't really afford paying for the bus ticket for the long ride, but still wanted to have Jesuraj come home for the holidays). Because Jesuraj was also sick at that time, we sent him to a doctor, who confirmed my suspicion that the main problem is malnutrition; the boy is not infected with HIV. Thanks to the support of Sahaya, we are bringing the boy back to his foster-parents, and have him regain his health and strength. We are extending some support to the family to cope with their difficult situation, send the boy to school, and help the husband recover from his illness so that he can soon start working again.

More children will definitely follow! Although the need for help will become larger, my recent visit has augmented my energy and dedication even more, and I know that we are definitely going in the right direction!


Koen Van Rompay,
Founder and Secretary,
Sahaya International

Koen and his son
Koen and one of his sons, Tamilarasan, January 2008.

(To read more stories written by Koen, click here).

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