In our Service Learning class this past Saturday, we invited 2 doctors from the Princess Wales Hospital to come to speak to our students about AIDS and HIV. It is because some of us are going back to House of Rainbow Bridge in Cambodia in summer, a hospital for children infected with HIV. Many of these children were infected from birth, and then abandoned by their family. In the class were also 3 professors from our university, a pastor and a social worker from the NGO that started the House of Rainbow Bridge.
The hospital was actually started as a hospice service, when the fatality rate was quite high. With better knowledge, better medicine and better care, the fatality rate gradually came down to practically zero. Now the children are going to school and growing up like other children. They have a chronic disease which require continuous care, just like many other chronic illnesses, such as asthma, diabetes, and cancer.
While the acute problem of mortality is brought under control, other longer term problems come to the front - continued education, jobs and marriage. For most of them, education had been interrupted by their illness, because of reduced capacity to study, discrimination, and accompanying poverty. Their prospects of continuing education and career are much reduced.
They are also growing up into teens. They are beginning to be interested in dating, and marriage. Who can and should they marry? Other youths without HIV? Each other? These are tough practical and moral questions.
Many of us are prone to ask - why does God allow them to suffer like this, apparently through no fault of their own? Honestly, we don’t really know. We trust that there must be a reason, and in time, we might know. But at this point, we don’t.
What shall we do? Wait until we get the answer? Surely we shall not give up trying to find the answer. In the mean time, we can just wait, or take the position that their plight does not concern us, and is not something we are responsible for.
Some people, such as Happy Tree - which set up House of Rainbow Bridge - choose to try to help. Our team from the last Service Learning class spent one Saturday morning at HRB to get to know them during our trip to Cambodia last summer (2011). During our week-long trip this summer (2012), some of our students are planning to set up a small wireless computer network for the children, with funds donated by our friends. Others will be teaching them to tell stories using cameras and computers - digital story telling. We may also carry our other facility improvement projects. We are quite proud of our team.