Manavya, [meaning ‘humanity’ in Marathi], is a Non-Government Organization which provides shelter and rehabilitation for children and women who have been left orphaned after being infected by HIV/AIDS. Manavya was started by Late Vijayatai Lawate, who spent thirty-five years serving the cause of rehabilitation of commercial sex workers and their children.
The organization started Gokul- a home for children infected with HIV/AIDS, which provides them shelter, food, education, vocational opportunities and medical treatment. It also helps in breaking down the stigma around individuals infected with HIV+.
Manavya is a safe haven for these children. The organization provides education for class 1 to 7. After that, the child may opt to go to Pune city for further studies. The dormitories are well planned. Each dormitory has an attached washroom and changing room and a teacher allotted to take care of the students.
Along with education, vocational training is also provided for the children. Each student must have a skill. Manavya provides various vocational training courses in card file making, fashion designing, computer training and plant nursery training.
When news breaks out about an individual being infected with HIV/AIDS, people generally start avoiding them. Family members are abandoned and avoided. In urban areas, people are still aware of medical programmes and rehabilitation centres. But in rural areas and among the economically lower-class individuals, such information is not provided. Therefore, people start alienating the individual and family members start abandoning them.
This is what Manavya wishes to rectify. They take in individuals who have been rejected by society. Further, they also participate in information dissemination about HIV+, making individuals better informed.
HIV/AIDS renders your immune system weak, causing the individual to fall prey to diseases and infections easily, being fatal to the person. With proper medical treatment and a well-balanced diet, including three meals a day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with midday snacks, the children at Manavya witness an improvement in their immune system and are not susceptible to diseases and infections as easily as they were.
After the child turns eighteen, they have to leave the shelter with everything they have learnt living there.
There are many success stories of boys and girls who made found jobs and are financially independent and continue to live their life. They are healthy and are respected at their place of work.
People are afraid of the unknown. We cannot expect society to understand a concept like HIV/AIDS overnight, but we can help in the process of them realizing that discriminating against or abandoning innocent children due to an infection they have with no fault of their own, is wrong.
Being educated about a situation makes you less afraid. I truly believe that if everyone were made aware of the actualities and facts around HIV/AIDS, rather than misconceptions, our society will be warmer and more welcoming. Let us all pledge to make a change for the better.