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Rajib Thomas, or Papa Reji as he is known to his adoptive family, has been labelled “Mr India” for his extraordinary humanity to help the children. The 43-year-old and his wife, Mini Reji, have adopted 22 orphaned children. While he looks after their healthcare and education, his wife cooks and cares round the clock for the huge family.
Papa Reji says he was inspired to adopt the children after seeing a malnourished girl outside a local hospital. “I saw a girl sleeping outside – weak to the point that you could see her bones”, he said. “I found out that she was HIV positive and had lost both her parents. I asked what she would like to eat and she said noodles, but I couldn’t find them anywhere so I promised her I would return the next day. She passed away that night and that incident kept haunting me, so I went inside the hospital and asked them to contact me if there were any such children in the future.”
The harrowing experience moved Mr and Mrs Reji, from Mumbai, India, to help other HIV affected children. The heroic couple were so determined to help as many children as they could, they even slept on the floor of their home while the children shared mattresses.
“At first it was difficult to make ends meet – we could afford one mattress on which my four children slept and my wife and I would make do without. Eventually, people started donating beds, grains and money. My family of four slowly expanded to 24 as more and more children with HIV were sent to me.”
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The couple now work round the clock looking after their family of 24, including their two biological children. Papa Reji also wants to tackle stigma around HIV. “Being HIV positive doesn’t mean that they have to cut their life short. They can live as long as any normal person and that’s what I’m here for – to save them and give them a long life. And with love and care, everything is possible.”
If you wish to donate to the Bless Foundation, please click on this link to do so: http://ket.to/papareji
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Lesley Middleton, owner of PINK IN OUR LIVES