Today is Father’s Day. Our fathers were, are and will always be our number one heroes. Today, we talk about one father who is a hero to as many as 45 kids. Meet Solomon Raj, a man hailing from one of India’s metropolitan cities – Chennai. Raj runs a shelter home providing a home to 45 HIV positive children. The children that were abandoned by their families were adopted by Raj and his wife Felvia Shanth. They gave them a place that they could call home.
What Ignited this?
Shanth and Raj didn’t have any biological children until about 8 years of marriage. That’s when they decided to take the adoption route. But the couple didn’t want to adopt anyone randomly but wanted to bring home someone who really needed care. That is when the couple decided to adopt an HIV+ child.
What Was Next?
The family grew from 3 to 47, including Raj and Shanth, as the couple took 45 more HIV+ kids under their wings. To take care of the children in a more organized fashion and to attract funds for the same, the couple registered an NGO by the name of Shelter Trust in 2005. Now, it is mandatory for them to take government approval before bringing in a new kid into the family.
How Do They Do it?
Taking back to the time when the couple had brought home their first child, Raj says that it wasn’t an easy start. It was difficult for them to take care of the child as both of them were working. So, he started taking the kid with him to the office. After a while, there was visible uneasiness in the office atmosphere. But that didn’t stop them from bringing home more kids. There are financial and emotional strains in taking care of the kids, but the joy of hearing Appa (Tamil for father) from them beats everything. Ask Raj about how they take care of the kids, he says that the couple welcomed HIV+ former sex workers who had nowhere to go to look after the kids, giving purpose to their lives too.
What are the Challenges?
It is not an easy road that Raj and Shanth have taken. There are financial constraints, medical expenses being the most unpredictable ones. The donations of generous people really help a great deal in running the shelter. Apart from this, the incidence of death is never easy to deal with. They try to resort to professional counselling to help the kids. They indulge the kids in diverse activities to keep them happy and cheerful.
What’s our Takeaway?
Raj and Shanth reinstate the belief that parenthood is beyond sharing the same blood.
There are about 100 million homeless children across the globe looking for a place to call home. You might be planning to start a family or may start a family somewhere down the line, think about giving life to someone who’s already here than to bring someone new. Adoption shouldn’t be an option for only the ones who can’t be biological parents, it should be a happy choice for us all!