• Mint (Mathurada) R

The Cost of a Life

The first time I walked into the DWBI (Dreams We Believe In) meeting on a Thursday afterschool, I was not necessarily excited to be there. Feeling tired from school, I just wanted the meeting to be over. The meeting began like a typical first service group meeting which I had been to multiple times before. I barely knew anything about HIV or AIDS and not much about what the service group even did. By the fifth meeting, I knew that DWBI worked with children living with HIV/AIDS at Baan Gerda, helping them have the most fulfilling, normal childhood possible through activities such as special trips and fun activities when they are invited to visit NIST, hoping to build a stronger relationship with the kids at Baan Gerda in Lopburi. However I was not completely interested nor motivated by the group’s goals and aims.

Soon, the group leaders told us we were going to be helping them plan Mercy Fun Day and told us that we had around a month to plan it. Mercy Fun Day was supposed to be a day for children living with HIV/AIDS at Baan Gerda to have fun on our school campus by organizing activities and spending time with them. I was excited to be able to plan an event for them and finally get to experience what their service group was all about since I didn’t feel as invested into the service group.

The planning was difficult at times but overall it was definitely worth the day of the event. Mercy Fun Day, I watched as the kids hopped off the bus and immediately had smiles on their faces as they recognized some of the older DWBI members. Throughout the day, the kids played games, swam, decorated cookies, etc. As I watched them, I had an epiphany that these kids probably don’t get to live a normal life nor have a normal childhood like most people would. DWBI gives these kids an opportunity to have fun and forget about their life back at Baan Gerda for just one day. People have a stigma around these kids who have no choice but to live with what they’re born with and are discriminated against. I realised that they probably are treated differently, have different values, and most likely worry about things that would never even cross my mind. A day just on the NIST campus is considered a privilege and an opportunity in a lifetime for most of them, while for me and so many others, it’s just a normal day at school. Why is it that we take living a healthy normal life for granted? The simplest thing and yet we never have stopped once to appreciate it. I believe that being born healthy is a privilege that most of us are lucky enough to have but for others, it can only be a dream. These kids have done absolutely nothing to have to live with HIV/AIDS but still suffer the consequences.

Actually getting to be face to face with the kids made me feel some type of way that I became really interested in the topic and how I could support those living with HIV/AIDS. There are approximately 37.9 million people across the globe who live with HIV/AIDS, 36.2 million are adults and 1.7 million are children less than 15 years old. It frustrated me that the virus could be transmitted from mother to children. Why should the children suffer when they have done nothing wrong? Then leave the child as an orphan after they’ve died? Why would the parents make these mistakes and not take precautions when making decisions? Why is it legal to lie about your medical history? Is the government even concerned about our health? It saddened me to think that the 20+ children who visited the NIST campus on November the 30th 2019 will probably never have kids if they don’t want the virus to infect their child.

Usually parents who have AIDS will die after 3 years if they cannot afford medication, leaving the child as an orphan. An orphan that will most likely have to live with AIDS all their life.

Baan Gerda is only a small orphanage in Thailand and cannot take care of all children living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand. The same applies to other countries all around the world, this problem may occur less frequently in places like the US where they are much more aware of these issues and are more developed than Thailand but this problem can also be much worse in countries like South Africa where they are less developed meaning they don’t have much medication/treatment strategies and have low education on HIV/AIDS, leading to more people contracting the disease. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 532,522 Thais are affected by HIV and around 800,000 Europeans are affected with HIV while in South Africa, the numbers are as high as 7.7 million.

This is why I now realise being born into a family that is not affected by HIV/AIDS is considered a privilege. For those of us who are able to live healthy and carefree lives, we often don’t consider the opportunities we have as privileged but to those who suffer from the virus, having a healthy life is a privilege. Our wellbeing allows us to live longer and eventually gain more power as we grow older as well. It’s also a privilege to grow up in a safe and loving family where I can get a good education and many opportunities these children may not have in their lifetime. Growing up with money and being able to spend it on luxurious things that might not be necessary is considered a privilege. I will continue to contribute to helping DWBI and help them host more events to promote and educate the NIST community about HIV/AIDS, as most don’t know the severe impacts of HIV and AIDS or what DWBI really does as a service group. No matter big or small, all events are sure to inform people and raise awareness about the virus. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities for NIST students to visit the Baan Gerda community or even expand to help children all over Thailand, not just from Baan Gerda. Maybe Mercy Fun Day could become an event for all international schools to participate in.

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