Shalom provides comprehensive and holistic care for those affected by HIV Aids. It provides both outpatient and inpatient care as well as home-based care. Shalom also aids widows and, through Kiran, fosters income generation schemes.
Gita is tiny – 4 foot something. Born in a village in Bihar, she was married at 12. As is customary in some parts of India, when she turned 15, she began living with her husband’s family. Her husband, a barber, ran a shop in Delhi more than a thousand kilometers away. He travelled back and forth to Bihar and over the next 10 years, Gita had 4 children, one boy and three girls. Finally, at the age of 25, Gita and her children, moved to Delhi.
Gita’s husband’s business was going well, but she noticed that he took a medicine every day. He wouldn’t tell her what it was for. Then one day he took her and the children to a hospital where they ran some tests following which Gita and the youngest daughter were started on medicines. Gita had no idea why she was taken to this clinic every month and why she had to take a pill every day. She summoned up enough courage to finally ask someone at the clinic. She was told that she had an illness called HIV, that there was no cure and that the symptoms could only be suppressed. The news shattered her.
About three years ago, her husband’s health deteriorated and he died. Overnight, Gita became a widow with four children. Her life fell apart. To add to the burden of her own illness, she was now the sole bread winner. Her husband’s family disowned her. Though the barber shop legally belonged to her late husband, his brother forcefully took possession of it. Some days, the family went without food. Imagine the pain of a mother who could not even feed her children.
Relief came through Shalom’s Home Based Care program. When her husband died, Shalom staff visited regularly to comfort and support the family. Then Gita herself took ill and was admitted to the Shalom hospital. Here she learned about the newly started Livelihood Initiative program called Kiran. She enrolled in the program and was given a sewing machine. Gita had never used a sewing machine before but now she learned to use one –and an electric one at that. It is not easy to pick up a new skill when weighed down by grief – but Gita was determined. She was a mother, she had to feed her kids. Stitch by stitch, she learned to make beautiful bags, colourful pillow covers and trendy cloth pants. The process in itself was therapeutic. Pride and joy in making something beautiful gave her a sense of value. It was so good to come to the centre every week day, and meet others like her who soon became her close friends. Laughter and tears flowed easily as the women shared their joys and hardships amidst the buzzing and whirring of their machines. Gita’s life was transformed. Now freed from worry about feeding her children, she dreams about their future. This is what Shalom is all about.