By Deeptiman Tiwary
Gauri Tilak, great grand-niece of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, starts an HIV programme in the city that will cater to the nutritional needs of 100 HIV positive children
Gauri Tilak (l) with Dr Mamta Manglani, head of paediatrics at the Sion HospitalEarly 2009, seven undergraduates from Brown University, Rhode Island, USA, went on an HIV–AIDS project spanning several countries. They realised that despite sufficient financial aid to the patients, not much was being done to meet their nutritional requirements. This motivated them to set up an NGO and five months later, they were in Mumbai to get the initiative rolling.
Incidentally, the student who leads the group, Gauri Tilak, is the great grandniece of freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The 20–year–old student of economics and biology inaugurated her project at the paediatric ward of Sion hospital in the company of several HIV positive children.
Beginning June, her NGO, AIDS Relief International, will provide regular nutritional needs to 100 children receiving antiretroviral therapy at Sion hospital and will later cover all the 1,327 HIV positive children being treated at the hospital.
Proud of her roots, Gauri insists she is not doing the project because of her association with a great man. “I am proud of being the grand–niece of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, but that’s not why I am doing this. This is a product of our experiences. Even if I had no association with any man of significance, I would do it,” says Gauri, sitting across a stone STUD of Tilak in the hospital’s conference room.
Gauri’s connect with Mumbai’s underpriviledged children started in early 2009 when she and her friends, fresh from HIV–AIDS projects in South Africa and Kenya, decided to do their bit for the patients. Says Gauri, “While enough money was being pumped in for reaching medical help to patients, there was little focus on nutrition, which is equally important. We decided we had to do something about it.”
In May 2009, Additional Project Director of Mumbai District AIDS Control Society, Harish Pathak, visited the Brown University campus for a lecture. Pathak was already running a project at Sion Hospital, also known as Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, and showed the students the way to realise their dream.
The students first set up their NGO so that they could raise funds. Gauri then travelled to Mumbai to take stock of the situation. “Our experience at Sion hospital was the same as elsewhere. Eighty per cent of child patients were malnourished and there was little help forthcoming. The situation was worse for the underpriviledged. So we decided to start our project with children here first.”
The doctors at the hospital couldn’t be happier. Says Mamta Manglani, head of the department of paediatrics at Sion Hospital, “The nutritional needs of HIV positive patients, specially children, are far higher than normal people. Initiatives like these will go a long way in helping patients, specially from underprivileged backgrounds.”
Source: Times of India