Christmas morning 2018 found me and daughter Mira heading to one of my favorite places in India. – Mukta Jivan. A visit to MJ always feels like a gift to myself. Despite all the reasons for Mukta Jivan’s existence, it is a feel good place. Because here, it’s all about love, faith and compassion. Every day. Not simply at Christmas.
Welcomed warmly as always, I feel I’m with family. The nuns are eager to hear about how we’re doing and any other news. In turn, they tell us about themselves, their work and new developments. All the while, Mira and I are being plied with food and drink. Simple, traditional Indian breakfast fare. I can feel my shoulders de-tensing. Humor and affection are proven ways to relax.
Sr Meena then updates me on the children. About 20 girls have completed school and moved on to apprenticeships and further studies. The Sisters pay for their continued education. Those girls now reside closer to their new institutions but return to MJ for holidays and breaks. It is after all their only home.
Meanwhile, no new children are being sent to MJ. This is not because there aren’t any young ones with HIV but appears to be more a case of nationalist politics in play. I shall not get into that. Instead, I’ll take my cue from the Sisters and keep my focus on what needs doing and go about doing what I can.
Since the current number of children in residence is down to only 15, it makes schooling them here expensive, impractical and less fulfilling as the different class sizes are so small. The whole building ( school, kitchen/dining, and dorms) itself is much too big. So a decision has been made – this coming June, the remaining girls will be moved to Naya Jivan which is a sister facility also housing children with HIV/AIDS and run by the same order of nuns. Naya Jivan is within the same township as Mukta Jivan and the children are familiar with each other. This integration of the girls will be more sensible in terms of managing, housing and schooling while at the same time, it’ll provide the children with a bigger pool of ‘siblings’. I see and understand the point of this move.
With the children’s current building, the nuns have a new plan. It’ll provide shelter and care for anybody in need. The sick, the destitute, the abused. All are welcome. The SIsters here recognize the continued need for service and are preparing to provide it. Details are yet to be worked out.
With these new developments, I recognize that my own part has been expanded. I will of course continue supporting the children at Naya Jivan – all the children. At the same time, I feel I must support the Sisters in this new plan. Sr Meena and I will be talking later this month to discuss the matter further. As their plans get underway and implemented, what and how I can help will become clear. Stay tuned!
Getting back to my visit, I’m eager to meet the children. They all show up to wish the nuns and ourselves a Merry Christmas. Each of the girls is sporting a new outfit presented to them on occasion of the holiday. Such a colorful and joyous sight! Sr Meena hands out fun hair accessories. I distribute the candies I brought from home.
From here, we walk back with the children to their residence. I decide to take individual photos and videos of them as the next time we meet, they will be at Naya Jivan. I want this record of them. It is the close of one chapter.
A new one is set to start. Moving on, moving up.