Ostracized by society for marrying a daughter of AIDS patients, Mahesh turned life into an opportunity and today runs a home for 17 HIV positive kids and dreams of founding a rehabilitation centre for at least 100 such kids. This is the story of Sparsh Balgram in Bopodi, Pune that houses 17 HIV positive kids who lead healthy and normal lives.

Mahesh married Sujata,whose parents at the time were suffering from AIDs. Everyone, including his family and friends, ostracized him for marrying Sujata who was also thought to be affected with the same. Unable to bear the humiliation, he along with his wife came to Pune in 2005 and joined a NGO working with HIV patients.

He met Sandip and his mother, both HIV positive, at Ghodegaon near Pune who were both literally decaying. “No hospital or NGOs was ready to admit Sandip as he was very sick. I got him to my house and ensured 25 per cent recovery so that he could be hospitalised,” Mahesh says. And Sparsh was founded.

“We decided to run a home for HIV positive kids whom even NGOs and hospitals do not look after,” Sujata says.

It’s easier to say than to do. “We had to prepare our mind that we could also get affected. We cannot keep a distance between kids and us. If we wanted to take decision we had to be mentally tough to face any challenges,” explains Mahesh about the most courageous decisions they took.

Thus Sparsh Balgram was founded at their 2BHK in Bopodi, Pune. Suspicious neighbors were unhappy with HIV positive kids and humiliated the couple in each possible way. Sujata and Mahesh continued with their work. “CASP volunteers would inform us about orphan HIV kids and we used to take them in our house,” says Mahesh.

He unfolds heart wrenching story of 10 years old Priyanka. “When she along with her mother entered our house, Priyanka’s faith in humanity was zero. She was asking her mother why they had come here when they were going to die. She was so confident that no hospital would admit them,” says Sujata. We took care of them for a few days and later admitted them into a hospital. “Despite being in hospital she was in disbelief. But later she gained confidence. Now she is in good mental and physical health,” Mahesh says.

Today Sparsh Balgram has 17 kids and all stay in 2BHK at Bopodi. Both Mahesh and Sujata are particular that kids should stand on their own and hence they themselves never seek help from anybody. “We want to inculcate habit to fight and live with respect among kids. This we can do with our own behavior and hence we don’t at all ask help from anybody,” says Mahesh.

Both of them make candles, bags and other showpieces and put stalls at various IT companies. A few other NGO volunteers come forward to help them. “This way we manage to run the house,” says Sujata.

“We have inculcated such good habits among kids like we would have done to our own kids that now our neighbors come to play with them,” says Sujata. All festivals, birthdays are celebrated with fervor. Nowadays many volunteers visit the house and teach kids various school, music and so on.

“We need almost 80k per month for grocery, clothes, hospital and schooling of kids. Many help us with grocery, hospital aid and so on. But still it is a challenge to run the home,” says Mahesh. But both are determined to pursue their dream.

Mahesh dreams to found a rehabilitation centre that could at least house 100 HIV kids. “We don’t have any support. But like a father of a house, I expect all kids will study and return back to the project. Thus I am confident that my dream would come alive,” he says.