The stigma surrounding AIDS may have decreased over the past decade, but HIV-positive people are perceived negatively.
Kallol Ghosh, 55, a resident of Kolkata, aims for his initiative, which includes Cafe Positive. The place, known for its aromatic aroma of coffee and is usually buzzing with professionals, college students and young adults, is run by a group of teenagers – all of whom leave their families saying it Was given that he was HIV positive.
Born in the city of Kanchrapara, Kallol has been serving the society for more than three decades.
He started voluntarily with organizations such as the United Nations and UNICEF, and a non-governmental organization that provides health, education, and residential facilities to HIV / AIDS affected young children and youth. Established the organization for.
So far, he has been instrumental in providing institutional and residential care to over 10,000 children.
How it started
After completing his education from the Ramakrishna Sarda Mission and the University of Calcutta, Kallol Ghosh served as a National Service Volunteer with the Ministry of Human Resource Development in 1988. He later worked on some projects with the United Nations, and was deputed in Nepal during that time.
Kallol was keen on child welfare activities, and engaged with UNICEF to run a student exchange program where he interacted with scholars from Oxford and Cambridge University to teach children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
In 1986, he started OFFER and did not look back.
Kallol collected initial funds for the organization from 10 to 15 of his friends, and decided to focus on the youth after testifying to be found HIV-positive.
Kallol said while talking to Business Khabar,
“Of the 2.5 million HIV positive individuals in India, more than 87,000 are under 15 years of age. Many of them have to contend with a negative attitude, which is caused by the stigma surrounding the disease. It affects their physical well-being and mental state, and I wanted to do something to improve their lives.”
Through his organization, he began supporting positive test takers. He launched an awareness campaign and launched several programs to benefit children suffering from HIV / AIDS.
“Our flagship project, Anandghar, currently bears 70 orphaned children. As a part of this, we manage a residential facility and provide essential things like food, clothes and shelter. We work with the government of West Bengal to give them completely free access to formal education, healthcare and medicine.”
In South Gobindpur, there is a small village within the city limits, the house is spread over an acre area and has two three-storey buildings to accommodate children. In the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth of Badbazar, Kolkata, Rs 3 crore was spent for the construction of Anandghar.
OFFER also runs similar residential programs for other marginalized children, who are trafficked, intellectually challenged and vulnerable.
Steps towards change
It is said that the first step towards ending vulnerability is to enable people to manage their livelihoods. The idea prompted Kallol to launch a café for HIV-positive teenagers associated with the Anandghar program.
One of the biggest challenges was finding a place to set up a coffee shop, which he named Cafe Positive.
Kallol remembers remembering,
“It took me six months to find a suitable plot of land. I faced many denials. The owners of many properties turned me away, intending to employ HIV-positive individuals. Finally, I found a 12×10 feet garage at Jodhpur Park in Kolkata, and I put my personal savings to build it. “
Today, about 10 young adults manage the café on their own, from cooking and maintenance to administration. The cafe buzzes with college students and working professionals, especially over the weekend.
The ongoing COVID-19 epidemic has affected some of the organization’s actions, but Kallol hopes to get back on track very soon. He plans to start a similar cafe at a large location on Lake View Road in Kolkata.
“The motive behind starting a café in this way was to create a sense of awareness in society about HIV, to normalize conversations around the disease and to feel affected and loved. To build more such cafes, we have started a campaign to raise Rs 20 lakh on the crowdfunding platform Milap. ”
What are the future plans of OFFER?
“this is just the begining. I want to continue to empower more and more such children so that they realize their potential like anyone else.”