As one approaches Shanti Bhavan the atmosphere is consumed by the penetrating laughter of children busy with their day of learning. The 50 odd adults on the compound don’t exhibit the same energy as the 40 something kids, but the excitement of the children pulls the corners of their lips into a content smile. The fatal disease plaguing this sanctuary for HIV/AIDS patients has failed to be as infectious as their will to learn and empower themselves, which is a victory that escapes most people in this painful predicament.
For that we have to thank volunteers like Shiva Kumar, who are working to provide digital literacy to the patients of Shanti Bhavan. Due to the volunteers these children hailing from all over Tamil Nadu can look to their future with genuine pleasure, instead of focusing on the uncertainty of their lives whirling around the hard to conceive certainty of an untimely death.
India is far from the most welcoming place for aids patients, especially children. The majority of the children at Shanti Bhavan are orphans, which means the only thing their parents have left them is eventually going to kill them. This is a harsh reality, however, love and purpose can soothe some of the most detrimental wounds, Shanti Bhavan case in point.
The younger children spend their days mastering Powerpoint Presentations and Paint, eagerly digesting all there is to know with a mental metabolism that is wonderfully astonishing. The older children mirror this excitement, but reign it in with determination of a young adult preparing themselves for the workplace. Often their days are spent studying video editing amoung other programs that offer promise in a work environment.
Thiruvengadam a man of thirty years of age commented to The Better India about how these classes affect him. “For the last one month, I have been receiving training in computers along with the other students here. It’s not only education but also entertainment. The medicines we take are very strong and they often make our senses weak, so memory training exercises are very helpful.”
As you can see this haven for the HIV infected does so much with very little. If you are ever in the always beautiful Puducherry (which is still Pondicherry in our hearts) stop by and say hi to the folks at Shanti Bhavan; and maybe bring them an extra computer or two.