Whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it. Mark 10:13-16
Today’s reading on the little children came to life for me today when I visited the Sneha Care Home and Shining Star School in Bangalore, India, a residential home and school for HIV positive kids. My friend Dr. Shoba Nair, a palliative care physician at St. John’s Hospital, which provides volunteer services to the adjacent home for HIV positive adults as well as the orphanage and school, brought me to Sneha and showed me around, introducing me to patients and staff alike. Sneha is run by Camillian priests and sisters, whose Order of the Ministers of the Sick, was founded by St. Camillus de Lellis in 1591. The Order, which works in 38 countries, is committed to quality and comprehensive health of the society with a preferential option for the poor sick. We came at lunchtime and saw more than 100 cheerful children sitting down to large plates of food in a mess hall. Most of the children have lost their parents or parent and have been rejected by their relatives or communities.
Although within the environs of the crazily chaotic traffic of Bangalore, or Bengaluru, as it is now known, the atmosphere of the Camillan campus is serene, spacious, scented with plumeria, and full of kids. A vision of the Kingdom indeed! Abundant mango and papaya trees, fuchsia bougainvillea, and multitudes of chattering tropical birds make it an oasis of joy.
Father Vince, who had children hanging all over him when we met him in the dining hall met us later in the office (see photo) and told the (unfortunately typical) story of one child whose relatives had decided to kill her after her parents had died of AIDS. They locked her in a room for nine days without food or water until one of the Camillan sisters found out about her and brought her to Sneha. Vince says that the home provides the kids with nutritious food, without which they can’t survive, medications – most are on ARTs – education and vocational training, and counseling for trauma. The greatest gift the home provides them with of course is love…the meaning of “Sneha” in Karnataka, the local language.
For a short video on the program see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYxUhn4qtOU
And for the website http://www.snehacarehome.org