by Julie Cramer Posted on Monday, February 11, 2013
The young, drug-addicted mother tested HIV-positive—and so did the baby girl to whom she had given birth. Stigmatized for having HIV, the mother abandoned her daughter at a rehabilitation center in Aizawl, India, fleeing further social mistreatment.It was then that Lucy Maruati (pictured right), 34, who worked at the center, made a decisionthat changed the course of the baby’s life … and her own.Lucy adopted the one-month-old baby girl. When her daughter was 9-months-old, Lucy felt God compelling her to care for other children in similar situations. Her orphanage, Gan Sabra, is the only home for HIV-infected, HIV-affected, and terminally ill childrenin Aizawl, the capital city of the eastern state of Mizoram.“The name came from the Hebrew words, gan (garden) and sabra, which is a species of cactus that grows in the Palestinian desert. As sabra not only survives in the desert but also provides water for travelers, so also the children living with HIV/AIDS not only can survive in this cruel world, but can also provide love and security to each other. In this home, HIV/AIDS and terminally ill children face the world together,” Lucy said. “Here children live their life with dignity and respect, free of any form of discrimination.”“Lucy has a tremendous heart for kids,” Uma Shankardas, director of India programs for Orphan Outreach, said. “When we visited a 30-bed, state-run hospice for HIV patients, the senior doctor said that he is so grateful that Lucy began Gan Sabra because he cannot accommodate such children, and Lucy is always willing to take them into her home.”Not only is Lucy taking children into her Gan Sabra home, she is also reuniting them with relatives. Recently two boys were orphaned when their mother died of AIDS. Lucy searched and found the boys’ grandparents and counseled them so that they took the boys in … back home with family, where they belong.“She has even managed to convince a couple of families to legally adopt HIV-positive kids, and that is something the nation has still not been able to consider even as a possibility,” Uma said.“The attitude toward people living with HIV/AIDS is much more understanding and caring than in 2005 when I adopted my daughter,” Lucy said. “People in general are aware of the issues and are being sensitized. However, there is room for much more improvement, and the issues of stigma and discrimination still need to be addressed.”In addition to running Gan Sabra, Lucy and her staff operate a day care facility for children of poor mothers as well as an afterschool program for 65 children. From one baby to 145 children, Lucy’s compassion offers them a taste of the only oasis of Living Water that truly heals.
Q&A with Lucy Remruati
In what ways have you seen God at work?
God’s wonderful work is seen in the faces and happiness of the children. Many of the children who never or rarely pray or go to church are praying and going to church happily. They learn to read the Bible and other good books. Some of the smaller kids (infected and affected with HIV/AIDS) are being adopted and finding families through an adoption agency. The children have access to medicines and education—all of which they lacked before coming here. Many of the children are being restored to their relatives as well.
How can people help?
People can help in any way they are willing to. Some specific ways include spending time with the children, tutoring them, contributing financial or in-kind gifts to Gan Sabra through Orphan Outreach, or writing letters of encouragement to the children.
What are the greatest needs of the new program?
Presently the orphanage needs a house to stay as they are staying in a rented house (where they’re asked to leave in the coming 2-3 months). They need and do visit the hospital regularly and the transport is difficult, so they also need help with transportation as well. The children, being orphans, need to get a good education, as that is very much needed for their bright future.
MEET TWO OF THE CHILDREN
Born in 2008 of HIV+ mother
She was abandoned by her drug-addicted mother in 2011 at a day care center.
Lalpekhlui is also HIV+ and is legally free for adoption.
She is four years old now, but she cannot speak clearly and her physical development is delayed.
Both her parents died of AIDS.
Her maternal aunt took care of her, but poverty and her deteriorating health forced her to give Ngunkili to Gan Sabra.
Ngunkili is 6 years old and very small for her age. Seeing her, anyone could take her to be only three or four years old.
She is HIV+ and has started treatment, yet she is not responding well.
She is legally free for adoption, but Lucy doubts if she’ll ever find a family that will take her in.