2nd October 2008 apart from being an important day for our Country, also turned out to be an important day in the annals of the SPB Fans Charitable Foundation. What better day can be chosen to embark on a noble cause and that too, with the recipient organization having its name as “Freedom Foundation”.
Freedom Foundation has been the pioneers of Substance Abuse & HIV/AIDS interventions in India, especially in the area of comprehensive care & support. Freedom Foundation is credited to have set up the first comprehensive community based care and support center in India at Bangalore and is recognized as a model by NACO (Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India) and other national and international agencies. During a time when HIV meant shame & silence, Freedom which was working in the field of de-addiction, opened its doors to people infected with HIV.
Today, the Freedom Foundation operates from 46 physical sites at various locations in the 4 states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu & Goa and has more than 1000 inmates.
It was to one of the above centers based at Kolathur, Chennai that some of the members of the SPB Fans Charitable Foundation had made a visit on 2nd October 2008 to make a donation. Till date, our Foundation has been advancing donations to Orphanages, Old Age Homes & Schools for Special Children and also blood donation camps. But this time it was a different purpose altogether as Freedom Foundation, as explained above, takes care of drug addicts, alcoholics and HIV infected patients in a homely atmosphere.
Harikrishnan, one of our members had been instrumental in suggesting this organization as the beneficiary of our donation this time and this event has in fact been an eye opener for many of us who were not exposed to the stigma that the HIV infected patients face in this society.
At 9.45am the members namely Harikrishnan, Ashok, Seshadhri, Madhumita, Vijayakrishnan, Balaji, Chandramouli, Ramesh, Dasaradhi headed by Mr.Giridhar Raja and Mr.SPB Charan gathered at the premises of the Freedom Foundation and were warmly received by the Management & its staff. Prior to the visit, the team of Harikrishnan & Seshadhri had visited and assessed the needs of the organization. The list of requirements was long but considering the scope of the event planned, it was decided to donate essential medicines costing around Rs.35,000. This, we understood during discussions with the management, would cater to one month’s requirement of medicines for the patients.
The center we visited, housed around 25 inmates, comprising children, adult males and females, all HIV infected patients who were gradually improving and coming to operating normalcy thanks to the efforts of the organization’s members namely it’s Director & Project Manager Mr.Varadhan, the Accounts & Finance Coordinator Mr.Shankaranarayanan, the Doctor, the nurses, staff and the care takers. One felt sad to find a few months old baby (who was abandoned & left with the organization) as one of the inmates but happy to know that this organization is taking care of abandoned infected children & babies. We were also informed that there was another center a kilometer away which housed many more patients.
Another highlight of this organisation, we were told, is that some of the patients themselves, after recovering substantially, in due course, become role models and continue to serve in the centers which had served them during their needy & worst days. This concept works well as these role models represent what an infected patient can become if trust & confidence is placed in the organization. We understood that some of the treated inmates had gone on up the life ladder and were well placed in jobs and working abroad as well. This was heartening indeed.
The Management Members explained that many are not aware of what actually HIV is and were bound to isolate infected patients from normal life. Even close family members & relatives fail to understand this and aggravate the problem by distancing themselves. Finally the patients have nowhere to go and it is organizations like Freedom Foundation that take care of such unfortunate people. It is understood that even Govt Hospitals shy away from their duties wherever HIV is involved and the private ones milk money out of them and leave them high & dry.
The Management Team highlighted that they were receiving support from various philanthropic institutions overseas and in India including the Government but still they had to toil endlessly to make ends meet as the monthly expenses works out to Rs.4,00,000. Some of the urgent requirements were a Genset and some medical instruments / equipments which would make them more self-sufficient and reduce dependency on external agencies. They have tie-ups with nearby hospitals & blood banks and try to get services at discounted rates or sometimes free. They are also conducting AIDS awareness programs for Govt agencies like the Police and also to Corporates, Educational Institutions etc. so that people become more amicable to such patients and treat them humanly without isolation. They also volunteered to organize an awareness program for the SPB Fans Charitable Foundation’s Members
Having heard a briefing about the center’s activities, we then went on to spend some quality time with the children there, interacting with them. We also had the children singing the “Tamil Vaazhthu” (Neerarum….) song for us based on our request and we also had SPB Charan singing a song at the request of the children with one of the boys (a 13 year old) dancing fantastically to it (the song was ‘Saroja Saamaan-nikkaloa’ from Chennai 600028). We could see the faces of the children light up with bright smiles and felt happy that we could add some glowing moments to their lives.
We then had the donation ceremony with Ashok giving an opening speech talking about the formation of the SPB Fans Charitable Foundation and the charity activities carried out in the last three years. Giridhar & SPB Charan also shared their thoughts and then we had our member Harikrishnan sharing his experiences with the organization. Finally the program ended with Giridhar & SPB Charan formally handing over the medicines to the Institution’s Management Members. We ALL left with a fulfillment that a noble deed had been accomplished, that too, on an auspicious day. The Freedom Foundation also came up with a suggestion for conducting a blood donation camp as they do on an average 20 blood transfusions per month and the blood so collected from camps would be available at discounted rates to them which would help them a lot.
With this charity event, the SPB Fans Charitable Foundation had completed 5 events this year starting with the donation to the Coimbatore Seva Nilayam during February 2008 at the Annual Meet with SPB, followed by the donation to Kalaichelvi Society in June 2008, donation to the Little Sisters of the Poor at Bangalore in June 2008 (this one was organized by the Bangalore Team), then the blood donation camp organized through Lions Blood Bank in July 2008 and now this event. The Foundation is becoming more active thanks to the driving force Mr.Giridhar Raja and active contributors like Ashok, Seshadhri & Harikrishnan. Let us all join hands together and do many more charities and give back something to the society that we live in.
Once again let us all bow to our GREAT LEGEND for being the ultimate driving force behind all this.
We are also thankful to all the donors who had contributed towards this noble cause