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Day 5 India Wednesday 19th February 2020

After our first night in Theni, we woke up early to visit Brother James’ ‘Reaching the Unreached’ village which both educates and homes children and young people diagnosed with HIV. Brother James came from Chester and he created and maintained the village until his death in 2017. The village is home to children born with HIV who were abandoned at birth and are now cared for in groups of 6 by housemothers, who themselves are usually widowed, until they are 13. Once they turn 13 they move into a hostel, which homes around 45 girls. Girls and boys are separated at 13 and are later then matched to marry in order to reduce the chance of transmission. We visited some of the toddlers who sang for us before seeing Brother James’ memorial. After being given an abundance of coconuts we had a chance to visit the homes they lived in and also bought some of the handmade tea towels, scarves, bags, face cloths, bath mats, made by the residents (which are distributed to John Lewis). Following another one of many bus journeys, we arrived at the hospice which provided palliative care for both adults and children suffering from HIV and TB, although the number of patients has significantly reduced due to there being more awareness of HIV (with there only being 18 patients in the hospice). The sisters treated us to tea and some really nice banana bread before we signed the guest book and flipped back to 2017 and 2015 to see the messages of the students who came to India before us. The Hospice also runs the ,Childline, office. We were shocked to hear that despite the legal age of marriage being 18 for girls and 21 for boys there remain many cases of childhood, forced marriage. The sisters who are trained social workers are responsible for removing children from these abusive relationships and housing them in a ‘safe house’. The Theni Childline office deals with on average 12 cases of forced married,labour or abuse each week. We briefly returned to Theni for lunch before getting back on the bus to take the 2 hour journey to Varasanadu to see the clinic we built in 2011. We were greeted by the local children and sisters with flowers, the traditional welcome of a bindi and more tea and biscuits. Before long, we set off again to the children’s parliament where they had set up a program for us to watch, consisting of many dances, a quiz, an unexpected power cut, songs, and, unfortunately for some, more coconuts. We left on a high with the bus driver turning on the speaker and the disco ball, leaving us to dance in the back. Mrs Garvey was not impressed she said it looked like a Hen Night bus in Manchester. When we returned to the clinic, we were greeted with another program but, this time, the children also wanted us to dance. After a quick debrief, Kanta led us all in an improvised dance before we invited the children to join us. Apparently, this was a success as they wanted another dance, so we half improvised to Katy Perry’s Hot and Cold which the children also enjoyed dancing to. We then gave out the gifts that many All Hallows’ students, as well as ourselves, had donated. Amazingly, we has lots left over which we plan to donate to the school back in Theni. We finally settled down for dinner, where we noticed that Kanta’s Calvin Klein top he bought at the market actually said Calvin Kelin, before retreating to our rooms, with most of us sleeping on the floor. However, it was worth it to see all the work All Hallows’ has done. Olivia and Orlagh


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