Human Touch in collaboration with Positive People recently organised the fourth edition of Sunburst Camp for children living and affected with HIV. NT BUZZ brings you a report
SHERAS FERNANDES | NT BUZZ
A ctivities that help children living and affected with HIV fight against the stigma and discrimination they face in society are rarely heard of. But in this backdrop, Human Touch in collaboration with Positive People, organised the fourth edition of Sunburst Camp at Krishi Udyog Farm in Collem. The camp had in participation over 70 children living and affected with HIV. The two NGOs are working towards eradicating stigma and discrimination associated with people living with HIV (PLHIV) and tackling substance abuse in the state.
Through this camp the children are encouraged and build up their confidence against the discrimination they face in society. The camp activities focus on developing each camper’s creativity, self-assurance, leadership and character, while offering hope in a nonthreatening environment. Their motivation level is boosted after they spend time with other children.
Sunburst was host to many informative and entertaining as well as fun-filled and creative sessions conducted by several resource persons and experts. Vivid Pawaskar, Collen Coelho, Ambrose Vas, Aprajita Mandrekar, Avelino D’Sa, Priya Almeida, Aneeka Shah, Jason Fernandes, Bisaji Gadekar, Suprajit Raikar and Sr Felcy conducted sessions on interesting topics.
Sessions such as decision-making, motivation and life skills; macarme art; communication skills, sexuality; career guidance; nutrition; banking; personal grooming; building enterprise; social media; zumba; clay moulding, beekeeping and ART treatment/self care were incorporated in the Sunburst 2017 schedule.
Camp director and founder of Human Touch, Peter Borges says the camp has provided a platform for many need-based interventions which required huge resources. “Adolescents gained a better understanding of coping skills and treatment failure has reduced to zero. Participating stakeholders (donors and resource persons) who were involved in the camp, shed stigma and discrimination and became more supportive towards their needs, making the camps self-sustained,” he says.
Peter shares that anti-retroviral therapy (ART) has yielded remarkable success in the treatment and changed the face of HIV epidemic as regards children, making it a manageable chronic illness with children surviving into adolescence. “There is a need to organise these camps to address their concerns of healthy sexuality, safer sex, transition to adulthood, disclosure, career, coping with potential stigma, challenges faced daily, access to care and support and adherence to treatment, career and mental health concerns,” he says.
Peter claims this camp to be the first-of-its-kind to focus mainly on the health of such children. “Unlike other camps, this one aims to inform the children, in a proper way, about the disease they suffer from, and help them correctly identify their status and better handle negative feelings,” he says.
Camp coordinator and assistant project manager, Positive People, Dashmi Mandrekar sharing her experience at the camp says: “Being a part of such camps helps me learn that we don’t only teach the children but in return we also get to learn a lot from them. Even the youngest child had so much knowledge of certain things that we couldn’t even imagine. For different activities or competitions the children would come up with something new and unique.”
Sharing her take on the ways to fight stigma and discrimination towards PLHIV she says: “We need to understand that one cannot become HIV positive just by sharing food or touching a positive person. We need to make them feel one with us and create opportunities for them to grow and explore various situations that are otherwise available to any one of us. At the end we also need to keep in mind, that we all are humans,” says Dashmi.
Of the many sessions held for the children, the most interesting session was the one on beekeeping which was conducted by bee keeper and software engineer, Suprajit Raikar from Benaulim. He received a good response for the children who were inquisitive to know more about beekeeping and the like. “The response I received for my session was great. The session taught the children about beekeeping in general and as a career option. It is a good effort by Human Touch and Positive People to organise such camps for children living with HIV,” says Suprajit.
Volunteers help and encourage the children to bring out the best in them. And it is not only the children who learn from the camp but also the volunteers who try their hand at things they have never done before. First time volunteer, Anuvea Fernandes says this camp has helped her widen her knowledge about HIV. “I got to know about ART, medication and its effects. Moreover, children can live a longer and a normal life if they continue their medication sincerely,” she says.