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Nearly two and a half million people in India live with HIV, and few have access to medical care. Lilla Marigza shows us how folks in Colorado have built a house, and a future, for families 8,000 miles away.

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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Namakkal, India)

Near the southern tip of India, 12-year-old Gomathi boils water in her new home.

Gomathi: “This house was bought for us, and we are very happy in it.”

In 2008, five women from La Veta United Methodist Church in Colorado met Gomathi at an AIDS clinic in Namakkal.

The women were touched by the responsibility taken on by the young girl who lost her mother and was left to care for her father and brother, both HIV-positive.

Seven- year-old Murugan’s immune system was weak from HIV, and the child suffered from chronic infections. The visiting volunteers wiped down the mud walls and surfaces of the family home in an effort stop the infections. Pastor Betty Brown led the team.

The Rev. Betty Brown, La Veta United Methodist Church: “We couldn’t help but notice there was a big hole in one of the walls. It was completely dilapidated, open to the air.”

The women consulted a doctor and learned that a cinder block house would help the family stay well.

The Rev. Betty Brown, La Veta United Methodist Church: “They had a dirt floor. If we could provide them with a home that had a cement floor and cement walls, Dr. Sam agreed with us, it would be a better environment for Murugan to live.”

A few months later, a new home was built at a cost of 600 U.S. dollars.

Ponnusamy, Father: “My children are very happy to be in this house.”

United Methodist Don Messer is an advocate for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Rev. Don Messer, United Methodist Global AIDS Fund: “These women committed themselves. They linked a small community in rural India with a small community in rural Colorado. They bonded for healing purposes.”

That healing partnership continues as the church raises money for the AIDS clinic in Namakkal. Meeting Gomathi inspired this long-term connection between friends in India and Colorado.

The Rev. Betty Brown: “We see her as a symbol of what can be, and we’re very hopeful that Gomathi will  really give back to her community. Whatever she decides. But we’re behind her, whatever she wants.”

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Shortly after this story was taped, Ponnusamy passed away but his children, Gomathi and Murugan, still live alone in the home built by the women from La Veta. The church has started a college fund for the children. For more information on the ongoing partnership, visit the “Friends of Namakkal” Web site.

The United Methodist Global AIDS Fund was established in 2004.

Posted: March 3, 2010