Agape – Home for Children with HIV
Agape means unconditional love. At least that’s the definition I was given at a home for children with HIV, just outside of Chang Mai, Thailand.
One morning at my guest house, I was fated to meet at breakfast a young couple, Ben and Lauren, from Ohio, a state next door to my home state of Michigan. In fact, it turns out Ben’s brother lives in my home town of Grand Rapids. Small world.
When they said they were headed that morning to Agape, a home for orphaned or abandoned HIV kids, and did I want to come along, I immediately said yes. I’m not sure why, as I knew my heartstrings would be torn, but it felt like the right thing to do.
The kids were coloring Easter eggs when we arrived, laughing and dipping orbs into brightly colored dyes. We were introduced to several members of the staff, who filled us in on the background of Agape, including a short 8 minute video that literally had me in tears.
Agape Home is the brainchild of a Canadian woman, Avis, who years ago fell in love with a little girl, Nikki, who was dying of AIDS. The child had been abandoned by her parents, and after developing various infections, her doctor considered her beyond help and wrote in her chart, “leave her to die.” Avis asked if she could take Nikki home to care for her, and at first the powers-that-be said a flat-out no. But Avis asked again and they said she could take Nikki home just for the day. But Nikki never went back, she stayed with Avis and her family. It turns out that what she needed most was for someone to touch her, and to love her. This was quite a few years ago when HIV and AIDS were largely misunderstood, and people were afraid to be in the same room with someone afflicted, let alone touch the person.
In the intervening years, Avis has opened this place for children who are unloved, not cared for and abandoned, called Agape Home. People from all over the world sponsor children to help cover their cost of living here. The government does not give any money to Agape, however they do now provide the medicine needed to help these kids lead healthier lives.
Children here know that they are loved and cared about, and it shows in their smiles and laughter.
Nikki is now a vibrant young adult. She did not die. Her doctor all those years ago was wrong, and it took one energetic, caring woman to see that and step in to save this little girl’s life. People come here from many countries to volunteer their time, and those that can’t come, send financial help.
If you’d like to help, the contact information is firstname.lastname@example.org or www.nikkisplace.org