Times of India
02 December 2010
By Sumati Yengkhom
They were on cloud nine on Wednesday, literally. On board the ‘flight of fancy‘ were 42 wide–eyed very special children who live with HIV. Their eyes sparkled and their innocent faces lit up with excitement as the Jet Airways flight from Kolkata took off for Bagdogra. On World AIDS Day, these children got a very special gift – wings to fly.
"Oi dhekho, meghta koto neeche. Amra to tar upore urchhi," (Look, the cloud is down below. We are flying high above), exclaimed Rishav Debnath, looking out of the window.
The six–year–old was abandoned by relatives after his mother succumbed to HIV/AIDS. His father too is HIV–positive and is a daily wage earner in Bongaon. Rishav was rescued by Organisation For Friends Energy & Resources (OFFER) and kept in Anandaghar, a home for the HIVpositive children run by the NGO.
The 42 HIV–positive children, all inmates of Anandaghar, were granted their wish to fly on World AIDS Day, under the project ‘Gift Me The Sky‘ organised jointly by OFFER and Bajoria Charitable Foundation (BCF). They clapped in excitement as the aircraft took off from the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport.
"I have never seen an aeroplane except in photographs. I never knew it is so big and has so many seats," exclaimed four–year–old Tina, sitting by the window. Tina‘s mother was trafficked as a young girl and forced into prostitution. She lost her mental balance when she discovered she was HIV–positive and is lodged in a hospice in Kolkata. Tina was left with no one to look after as no one knows who her father is.
"Tina was brought to Anandaghar when she was just about five months old. Most of these children are orphans who lost their parents to HIV/AIDS and their relatives threw them out because of their HIV status," said OFFER founder secretary Kallol Ghosh.
From Bagdogra, the children will proceed to Mirik for a dream vacation in the Hills. They were told about the tour plans only a few days ago. And the excitement began soon after.
"Many of us could not even sleep properly last night due to excitement. We kept discussing how it would be like flying up in the air," said Samir. The 11–year–old was adopted by Anandaghar in 2007 after the boy lost his parents to AIDS. After his father‘s death, Samir and his mother were made to live in a cow–shed in their Bongaon house when relatives came to know about their HIV status. In a year‘s time Samir lost his mother too.
"Can you see the smile of their faces? There could be no better gift for them on this day," said Namit Bajoria, managing trustee (BCF). In Kolkata, mayor Sovan Chatterjee and NSCBI director R Srinivasan saw the children off. Giving a sense of belonging to these children were some celebrities and sports personnel from the city who flew with the kids.
(Names of the children
have been changed)
Friday, Feb 24th
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