The story behind “ELIM kids”.
In 2008 we – Sam Vidler and Julie Mallinson – two Aussie General practitioners moved to China to do volunteer work in Chinese orphanages for one year.
Six months later we met Maggie – a severely malnourished 15 month old orphan with severe AIDs. It quickly became apparent that staff at the orphanage were unwilling to touch or care for her due to fear of contracting the virus and in fact she was not wanted at the orphanage. We fostered her for what we expected to be short term palliation but due to her amazing response to medicine she has become a healthy, happy and vibrant girl.
During our time of fostering and adoption we learnt much about HIV and specifically HIV in China. Fear of HIV and contracting the virus from simple touch or even being in the same room is huge. Despite the fact that there are estimated to be 10 000 children in China with HIV these children are unwelcome at orphanages and many hospitals. They are usually left in isolation rooms for months or even years without medical care or human interaction and with little food. This is obviously a death sentence for these kids.
HIV itself, however is no longer a death sentence but a chronic disease. Children respond miraculously to medication which not only helps them attain a normal life expectancy but also reduces infectivity. HIV is NOT infectious in a normal living situation.
Armed with this knowledge and the concern that other children were suffering from the same isolation that Maggie did, we established “ELIM Kids”- a non profit organization to help orphans with HIV. We place children in foster families and small group homes and help them have access to free medication. We take care of their medical needs, feed and educate them and advocate for their adoption.
To date (January 2015) we have had 5 children adopted and have been able to help 13 children. We have been recently asked to help train orphanage staff, the general public and even Doctors regarding HIV and it’s management and have also been asked to help families living with children with HIV in order to prevent these children being abandoned and hence becoming orphans. Our hope is to gradually change the lives of all children in China with HIV through medication and education. We travel to China to run education sessions and support foster families and group home staff, around 3-4 times a year.
Whilst in Australia we work to raise funds and awareness of the needs of these children. Despite the actual antiretroviral medications being free in China, the costs of running a group home are high at $800 (Australian) per child each month.
We are currently setting up a Sponsorship Program, for the children and organize fundraising events throughout the year.