This week we are proud to take a moment to reflect how we as an organisation and community are contributing to creating a brighter, more inclusive world for those impacted by HIV and Aids.
This year’s UNAIDS theme for World Aids Day on 1 December is ‘Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility’.
It is with the ongoing solidarity of you, our community, that we are able to share the responsibility of challenging stigmas, spreading awareness and forging new paths for those living with HIV in Nepal.
In partnership with the local organisation Star Children, BTO provides essential medical care, shelter, education and support to children and families affected by HIV.
In 2019/20 alone BTO and Star Children provided:
Education fee support for 40 children
47,760 hours of education
16 children received digital literacy training through the EmPower Digital Literacy Program
Residential care for 11 children
Medical and/or hospital support for 17 families
HIV treatment-related supplements and food for 21 families
This work is essential in helping children impacted by HIV to overcome barriers to social participation, access education and have a brighter future.
In recognition of World Aids Day Star Children’s outreach program manager Mausam Gurung sat down to discuss the work of Star Children, and the role that education plays in the lives of children affected by HIV.
Can you please introduce yourself and your organisation?
Namaste everyone my name is Mausam Gurung. Currently, I am working for Nawajiwan Project it’s been 2 years, or almost 2 years working for Nawajiwan. And today’s information or answers I’m going to give are going to be solely and truly based on our experiences working for Nawajiwan families.
Tell us about Star Children and Nawajiwan…
Star Children is a non-profit organisation, it was established in 2004 and it is basically focused for residential care. But later on, after 16 years we felt that worldwide institutional care has been downsizing. So with the needs of the child and the child’s right to live in the community we came [up] with the idea of a program named Nawajiwan. And Nawajiwan in Nepali is called New Life or New Hope. So this is how we came about this project and the Nawajiwan project especially cares for vulnerable and needy children with the families living in the community. We support their overall aspects such as health, education, nutrition and if needed we also support the livelihood of the families to have a better life for children.
How does HIV affect a child’s ability to access education and participate in learning?
The main effect or problem that might appear is the stigma attached when the child, his or her health status is disclosed and there will be a problem from the school and within the school.
Apart from this, there will be a physical problem. Such as, you know much of the children with this health condition might have hearing problems or weakness. So in this scenario, they might have low attendance in school, and due to the health problems, they might be behind other students. So, in the long run, there will be some academic imbalance
How are children affected by HIV treated in mainstream schools in Nepal?
Well, this question is a very contradicting and difficult question to answer because in our community and our society when you are disclosed people hesitate to accept your health status so there will be discrimination and negligence in the schools. Schools or community. But what we practice is we do not disclose the child’s health status so children are accepted in the school. But then if
What is the outlook for children who are affected by HIV that and aren’t able to access education?
In our country education plays a very important role, but then those who can not access education have already been stigmatised from the community. And with the poor health and no access to education, they have a double and triple burden. So this escalates and will be a traumatising situation for these kinds of children.
What are some of the barriers that would prevent a child with HIV to access education?
From our information and our survey, the first [barrier] would be the economic status of the family. Second would be the literacy capacity and understanding of the family. Along with that comes the health and hygiene of the family plus the behaviour as well. And last would be the social stigma of the family in the community.
What role does children’s education play in changing the social stigma around HIV?
Well, the first [role] would be the self-benefit because the children will be more informed on their health status and more informed and educated on their medication and intake of it. The other one would be they would be a role model for their own kind of peer groups. And outside their peer groups as well they can be a motivator and help change the attitude towards this condition or this disease which can further help and speak for people like them. This can be a very good thing for them and their community.
How do Star Children and BTO support access to education and study for children affected by HIV?
BTO has been helping us a lot. First of all, BTO supports us financially and in terms of technical [support] they help us with planning and policy-making, and plus they help us with special assistance and guidance. When it comes to Star Children we find the need of the children and try to implement the planning and policy BTO has given us. The other thing is we advocate. If there are problems with stigmatisation or accessing education we advocate for the children to access education. That is how we lobby for proper education from the community to be attached to the school.
When our community donated to BTO how does it support your organisation and the children you care for?
It covers all the holistic aspects when the community donates to BTO. It helps to reunite families, it helps to have a smooth and stable future for the children. We believe in the capacity of the children when they are given the opportunity then they can become stars in their respective fields. It gives new hope to infected children.
Thank you so much, thank you, everyone, who are directly and indirectly involved with Star Children and BTO for helping excluded and deprived families in the community. And thank you so much for bringing smiles to the faces of vulnerable and needy children. Thank you so much from Nepal, thank you very much.
We are currently trying to raise money for our 2021 Education fund so we can continue helping amazing organisations like Star Children provide education support to some of the worlds most vulnerable children. Can you help?
We can't do it without you.
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