Aiding the AIDS campaign

Today is World AIDS Day!

A terminally-ill patient
A terminally-ill patient in SA

I was pleasantly surprised when I received the communication from the Blogcatalog requesting all bloggers to Unite in the campaign against spread of HIV/AIDS. Yes, thats a wonderful idea as today the thinking people all over the world are seized of this killer scourge problem and are trying to widely broadcast the campaign so that it reaches the most affected.

When I was actively serving the Tuberculosis patients in Ranchi TB Sanatorium, the then Doctor Maharaj of the Sanatorium – Swami Satyeshananda – used to impress upon me on how the TB had become intimately related to the HIV infections (while unfortunately the official circles would try to underplay the statistics). I realised the inter-connexion well when I came to South Africa last year and started associating with the welfare activities here, pioneered by a monastic brother Swami Saradananda who has been relentless in conceiving and executing suitable programmes for amelioration especially of the HIV/Aids infected patients in the KwaZulu Natal province which is said to have the highest incidence in this country. 

There are an estimated 33 million people with AIDS worldwide. It affects every country, city, and town in the world. And, the most frightening thing about it is that is going largely unchecked. In fact, that is one of the reason that worldaidscampaign.org is continuing its “leadership” theme, which it developed after learning that many leaders who promised to support AIDS were not keeping their promises. 

What’s the position in South Africa especially of the AIDS affected children?

Ekusizaneni Children's Home, in K Section, Kwa Mashu
Ekusizaneni Children

As per AVERT an international HIV and Aids Charity, having projects in countries where there is a particularly high rate of infection, such as sub-Saharan Africa, or where there is a rapidly increasing rate of infection such as in India, the UNAIDS estimated that there were 1.4 million South African children orphaned by AIDS in 2007, compared to 780,000 in 2003. I am quoting from AVERT:

With many women who are HIV-positive still not receiving drugs that could prevent them passing HIV to their babies, HIV infections are alarmingly common amongst children in South Africa. According to UNAIDS, there were around 280,000 children aged below 15 living with HIV in South Africa in 2007.

Children who are living with HIV are highly vulnerable to illness and death unless they are provided with paediatric antiretroviral treatment. Unfortunately there is still a shortage of such treatment in South Africa. The AIDS Law Project, an NGO based in Johannesburg, estimated that 50,000 children in South Africa were in need of antiretroviral drugs at the beginning of 2006, but that only around 10,000 were receiving them. UNAIDS estimates that at the end of 2005, children accounted for 8% of those receiving antiretroviral drugs in South Africa.

As well as many children being infected with HIV in South Africa, many more are suffering from the loss of their parents and family members from AIDS. Once orphaned, these children are more likely to face poverty, poor health and a lack of access to education.

How our Centre in South Africa stepped in…?

Swami Saradananda of SA, a dynamic monk for social change
Swami Saradananda of SA, a dynamic monk for social change

During the 1980’s and early nineties prior to the first, free democratic elections in South Africa, violence in the Kwa Mashu area was at its peak. This resulted in many killings and deaths of parents leaving behind orphaned children. In addition, there were also many orphans due to their parents dying of HIV/Aids and children infected by HIV/Aids.

The Ramakrishna Centre, here under the able leadership of Swami Saradananda mobilised its resources and engaged with Mrs BF Mhlongo from the Ekusizaneni Children’s Home, in K Section, Kwa Mashu to be of some assistance. At that time they had make-shift wooden cabins that were used for the children and during inclement weather posed many problems for them. The Centre immediately saw the need for good, secure and comfortable accommodation for these children and began a project to build two dormitories for boys and girls. 

These dormitories were built and furnished with double bunk beds and handed over to the local committee in 2001, by the kind assistance of our donors and well-wishers. According to Prof Vinod Jogessar, the Chairperson of the Centre’s Health Wing Ramakrishna Clinic, “On  the opening day, 5 patients were admitted.. These patients were in wheel chairs; emaciated, frail, weak and unable to walk. Just being put into comfortable beds with clean sheets and caring nursing staff was something they had not experienced before. The joy expressed on the faces of these patients is indescribable. Some weeks later, two of these patients walked out of the hospice on discharge. Doctors of the Ramakrishna Clinic conduct weekly medical rounds and also provide fresh vegetables and other provisions on a weekly basis. Good nutrition is an important aspect in  the management of patients with AIDS. The medical doctors feel privileged to be able to serve the needy and regard service to man as  worship of God.” 

And for the terminally-ill patients…

Ms N Ngubane, Councillor Mr L Naidoo (Deputy Mayor eThekwini Municipality, KZN), Pastor B A Sibisi (Chairperson, Ramakrishna Abalindi Home), the Hon. Dr Z L Mkhize (Minister for Finance and Economic Development, KZN), Caregiver, Adv H Kessie Naidu SC, Mr P Ishwarlaal and Prof V B Jogessar
From left: Ms N Ngubane, Councillor Mr L Naidoo (Deputy Mayor eThekwini Municipality, KZN), Pastor B A Sibisi (Chairperson, Ramakrishna Abalindi Home), the Hon. Dr Z L Mkhize (Minister for Finance and Economic Development, KZN), Caregiver, Adv H Kessie Naidu SC, Mr P Ishwarlaal (Chairperson of Ramakrishna Centre of SA) and Prof V B Jogessar (Chairperson of Ramakrishna Clinic)

Recently the Centre took up providing indoor facility to terminally-ill patients. On 6 August 2008, the Ramakrishna Abalindi Home (Inanda) was declared open by the Hon. Dr Z L Mkhize (Minister for Finance and Economic Development, KwaZulu-Natal). This facility was built by the Ramakrishna Centre of South Africa and handed over on that day to the office-bearers of the Home. The Home, intended for terminally-ill patients, comprises three sections of 45 beds, made up of three wards (15 beds for males, 15 beds for females, 10 beds for children and 5 beds for mothers wanting to stay with their children), offices, stock rooms, ablutions facilities etc. The Home will provide a much needed facility for HIV-AIDS and cancer patients in the area.

eThembeni Home for Terminally ill patients - Female ward
eThembeni Home for Terminally ill patients - Female ward

This is the second Home that the Centre has constructed for terminally-ill patients, the previous one being a 30-bed facility in Kwa Mashu. Minister Mkhize pointed out that the facility was not only a healthcare Home but also a symbol of integrated effort between Indians and Africans that promoted inter-racial, inter-religious and inter-linguistic understanding.

Memorable visit – First Nine days

Swami SmarananandaHere is a short Report on the First nine days (21st to 29th May) of a memorable visit of one of the Vice-Presidents of the world-wide Ramakrishna Order, Sri Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj. His arrival – second time in South Africa – saw a surge of joy and enthusiasm among the devotees here. His previous visit in 2002 was in his capacity as the General Secretary of the Ramakrishna Order. He reached Durban from Mumbai on 21st May, 2008.

On arrival he, along with his monastic assistant Swami Jnanavratananda, was given a warm and traditional welcome reception at our Temple Hall in the evening. In his Address of Reply, Swami Smarananandaji pointed out the deeper link of this SA Centre with Belur Math and how the continued relationship would be a potent factor in bringing peace and happiness to the people of South Africa.

Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj with Black children of the Ramakrishna Abalindi Home which takes care of the HIV/AIDS affected Black childrenNext day in the morning he was taken to Ramakrishna Abalindi Home at Inanda where he met African people among whom hampers were distributed. Later in the evening he was met by distinguished dignitaries of Durban.
 
On Friday, 23rd May, Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj addressed a gathering of devotees at our Chatsworth Sub-Centre. He explained the advent of Bhagawan Sri Ramakrishna as a necessity to bring people of all faiths together. On 24th he visited the Ramakrishna Ethembeni Home at Kwa Mashu where he met orphans among whom a few children were affected by HIV/AIDS. In the evening he was given a public reception at our Nischalananda Hall where more than 600 people of all walks of life attended. There was also a cultural programme of Kathak dance recital by the famous Manesh Maharaj.
 
On Monday evening the Vice-President Maharaj addressed a gathering of devotees at our Redhill Satsang Group on the cultivation of devotion to Holy Mother.Swami Smarananandaji Maharaj with a dignitary couple from Black community in their traditional costumes
 
On Tuesday morning, Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj gave initiation (mantra diksha) to 109 devotees at our Temple. In the evening at the Temple Hall he gave a scholarly discourse to the devotees on Srimad Bhagavad Gita and its day-to-day utility. Wednesday was spent on granting interviews to the spiritual aspirants. He and his monastic assistant Swami Jnanavratananda were taken round of the beautiful Botanic gardens in Durban where they enjoyed the varieties of plants and trees including the water birds.

Swami Smarananandaji is waving 'arati' before the Holy Trio at the altar of the Shrine as a mark of inaugurationOn 29th that is on Thursday, Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj blessed 98 devotees with initiation (mantra diksha). Thus in South Africa he has initiated 208 devotees with spiritual guidance. Earlier on Sunday morning, Most Revered Vice-President Maharaj inaugurated the Ramakrishna Shrine at our Phoenix Sub-Centre which was attended by more than a thousand people. A special puja was performed by Swami Saradananda on that auspicious occasion. On Friday morning he and his team left for Northern Natal tour.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine