Pastor Reji Thomas has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help children suffering with HIV.
The 44-year-old from Mumbai, India now lives with his wife, two biological children and 22 adopted children, 16 of which were abandoned by their parents after being diagnosed with HIV.
Heartbreakingly, there are currently 2.1 million people infected with HIV living in India, the third highest rate in the world behind South Africa and Nigeria. Globally, 1.8 million children are estimated to have HIV and millions have been left orphaned by AIDS.
In 2007, Thomas first became aware that HIV positive children in India were not getting the treatment and care that they needed to overcome the condition.
He recalls meeting a little girl in hospital with AIDS, but sadly by the time he found her it was too late to save her.
Thomas explains, ‘she was in a terrible condition. She was in the last stages and didn’t have any muscles on her body, just bones and skin.’
‘Then the sister told me that she was suffering from HIV AIDS. Her parents died due to HIV AIDS when she was little.
‘There was nobody who could have looked after her. Somebody admitted her to hospital and she was in the last stage of her life.’
‘At that time I decided that I would take care of such children. They’re dying of hunger, there is nobody else to take care of them.’
After this incident, Thomas started fundraising to help HIV positive children, relying on non-profit organisations for money and local donors for clothes and toys.
Once they had enough money and supplies, Thomas and his wife Mini began to adopt children back in 2009 – and they haven’t looked back since.
Thomas says, ‘I found most of these children in hospitals and some through charity organisations who help children.’
‘When these children came to us, most of them were in a terrible condition. Some of the children were in the last stage of life when they came here. But we brought them here and gave them proper medication and proper food. So they have recovered.’
There’s no doubting that the generosity of Thomas and his family has changed these youngster’s lives for the better and now, with an ever-growing family to support, Thomas now plans to buy a permanent home for them all to live in.
‘We are living in a rented house right now which limits us. If we have a permanent place, in the future anything will be possible,’ he says.
What an incredible man – keep up the good work Thomas!