A man from Mumbai has adopted 22 HIV-infected children who were abandoned by their birth parents and left to fend for their selves on the streets of India.
Rajib Thomas, better known by his children as Papa Reji and to India as Mister India, found a soft spot in his heart in 2007 when he met a young homeless girl that was infected with HIV. He was entering a hospital as the young girl begged for food outside, according to Metro.
“It was the year 2007 when I met an HIV-positive girl outside a hospital and she asked me to get some noodles for her. I couldn’t get it that day but promised to come back again.”
A man of his word, guided by his heart, Papa Reji went back the next day to find out more about the young girl and buy her the noodles she asked for. When he arrived, he was told that the girl did not survive the night.
“The next day when I went there, I got to know that the girl was no more. I was devastated after hearing the news, so it was then that I thought of doing something for these children.”
Rather than allow his mind to block the chance meeting with the young HIV-infected girl, Papa Reji chose to visit an HIV/AIDS specialist and learn more about the misunderstood condition. During the discussion with specialist Divya Mithale, Papa Reji made the decision to take in two HIV-infected babies and give them the proper love and care they deserved.
Two years later, Papa Reji and his wife, Mini Reji, moved into a larger home so they could be more comfortable as they adopted two more HIV-positive babies, both of which were newborns.
There were hardships along the way, as finances and space issues surfaced from time to time. However, Papa Reji and his wife take comfort in knowing that they are making a difference for the HIV-infected children.
In the beginning, Papa Reji could only afford one mattress for the children, where all four children slept. However, as news spread of his good deed and big heart, people started to donate beds, food, and even money to help out, according to the India Times.
Eventually, Papa Reji’s family grew to 24 children, including two born from him and his wife, as families sent their HIV-infected children to him to care for.
Despite the tough times, Mini Reji has been the most supporting partner Papa Reji could ever dream of. Through all the tough times, and those that should be celebrated, Mini Reji has become integral to the health and well-being of the children.
“My wife has been a rock solid support and we’ve never differentiated between our children – we scold all of them, love all of them and give them the same gifts. My wife cooks for all 24 of our children, looks after their medication and takes them for their medical check ups. We’ve tried to give all of them a good education and make sure that they have a life worth living”
The split in duties has proven to be successful for the family. As Mini Reji cares for the children’s well-being and attends to their health, Papa Reji works diligently to provide a proper education for the children, something they may never have had if he was not in their lives, so that they may grow to educate others on the misconceptions about HIV and learn proper skills to better the world.
Papa Reji’s family may have peaked at 24 children, but that does not mean it won’t continue to grow if a child is in need. Since his first adoptions in 2007, Papa Reji has made it his mission to protect the children of HIV and love them as any father would.
“These children all call me ‘Papa Reji’ and it’s the duty of a father to protect…so I’m not someone special – I’m just a father looking after my children.”
[Featured Image by Alexxndr/Shutterstock]