A Unique NGO in Bangalore, India
Project Manager: Renu Appachu
With the growth of sex trafficking in India, the number of people affected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is rising rapidly. A sizeable fraction of the HIV infected population, are children between the ages of 7 to 18 years. Some children acquired the virus from their parents, while many others acquire it through early involvement in sex-related activities. In 1996, Renu Appachu, a social worker, was engaged in educational programs for sex workers and male prisoners in Bangalore. She observed that an increasing number of children were entering the sex trade often through abuse and exploitation, and were becoming victims of sexually transmitted diseases.
No support system existed to rescue these children and bring them into the mainstream society. Most home care facilities were reluctant to adopt these children because of their sex-related background. Ms. Appachu founded a home-care center, dedicated to rescue, rehabilitation and reintegration of HIV positive children. The formation of this Home Care Center also marked the birth of Jagruthi, which is based in Bangalore, India.
Since 1996, Jagruthi's Home Care Center has provided residential care to over 190 children and currently houses about 60 children ranging in age from newborn to 20. Most of these children have been either sexually exploited or involved in sex work in the past, while some have been orphaned due to AIDS. The programs at Jagruthi strive to protect and nurture these children, leading them towards a better and brighter future. Jagruthi has become a pioneer in its approach towards tackling the problem of sex trade and HIV/AIDS in India.
Partnership With POL
Jagruthi is determined to protect children from sexual exploitation and empower them to lead self-reliant lives. Girls are exploited and subdued in a variety of ways in Indian society and some reports indicate that girls are introduced to the sex trade as early as seven years of age. Neither the government nor many NGOs are addressing this exploitation of girls. Furthermore, the patriarchal nature of society makes it difficult for boys to seek help when they are subject to sexual abuse. The Power of Love Foundation has had a unique opportunity to learn about these complex issues through its partnership with Jagruthi. The Power of Love Foundation supports Jagruthi and its work that is geared towards reintegrating children engaged in sex trade into society.
HOME CARE CENTER (HCC)
The Home Care Center is one of the most important programs at Jagruthi. The Center is home to children from a variety of backgrounds and a sizeable number of them are HIV positive. The Center has trained staff to provide medical and psychiatric care to the children. Doctors at the Center provide symptomatic treatment for HIV positive children. In cases of substance abuse, including narcotics, solvents or alcohol, the Center provides rehabilitation courses to the children. In the event of death, the necessary police clearance and disposal of bodies is also handled by the Center. Jagruthi has successfully integrated eight children born to teen mothers at this Center into its pediatric care program.
A bridge course designed by Jagruthi staff imparts basic primary and secondary schooling to the children at the Home Care Center and prepares them for school examinations. The children are encouraged to attend schools outside the center, but most feel more comfortable with the center's bridge course work. The curriculum of the bridge course includes languages, science, mathematics, social studies, physical fitness, and "team-building" workshops.
Life-skills development is another program offered at the center. Children are trained in income generating skills like mirror work, tailoring and embroidery, cross-stitch and petti-pointing, jute work, screen and block printing and book binding. The variety of educational activities offered has a therapeutic effect on the children and prepares them to lead a self-reliant and respectable life.
Jagruthi has been providing counseling services since its inception, to people from all strata of society. Jagruthi also provides counseling, support, and health education to men having sex with men. Though the subject of men having sex with men is still a taboo in Indian society, it is one of the principle causes of HIV/AIDS among Indian men. As a result of the pioneering work of Jagruthi in this area, organizations from the Delhi and Mumbai areas have sought advice from staff at Jagruthi in the area of HIV/AIDS.
In 2005, Jagruthi formed a theater group to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. The "Street Theater Group" visits rural and urban areas in and around Bangalore and performs short skits focused on the topic of HIV/AIDS. Plays are performed in the local language Kannada, and in five other local dialects, in collaboration with other NGOs. After a performance local talent is identified and volunteers are trained on ways to spread the message of HIV-prevention using their theatrical skills. The Street Theater Group has been successful as evidenced by the increasing numbers of marginalized and poor people who visit Jagruthi for voluntary testing for HIV from areas outside of Bangalore city.
Jagruthi is planning to build two drop-in centers in the red light areas of Bangalore. The centers will allow immediate access to counseling and testing services and serve as facilitators for referrals to the Home Care Center. Through these centers, children needing help can be identified faster, tested for STDs/STIs and provided support by trained counselors. Jagruthi hopes that skilled resource personnel will be conducting classes at the center in the near future. In addition a doctor will visit each center three times a week to conduct regular medical check-ups and referrals for diagnostic tests. The drop-in centers will also help sex workers interested in exploring alternative employment opportunities.