Rajib Thomas adopted 22 HIV-positive children who were abandoned by their parents because they were infected by the HIV virus.
‘Papa Reji’ is what Rajib Thomas is fondly called by his 22 adopted children. These children live with him, his wife and his two biological children.
These 22 adopted kids are suffering from HIV. Papa Reji took them in when they were homeless, abandoned by their parents as they were infected with the virus. This happened a decade ago.
There was one heart-wrenching incident that changed Rajib’s life and his outlook towards it. One day he was passing by the DY Patil Hospital when he saw a weak girl whose bones were visible. Rajib found out that she was HIV-positive and lost both her parents. Rajib asked what did she want to eat and the girl said noodles. As Thomas could not find them anywhere, he promised the girl he would return the next day. But the girl passed away that night. But she left behind a different and more aware Rajib Thomas.
This incident grew him and he felt an instant urge to be the backbone for the homeless and abandoned children suffering from HIV-positive.
Rajib asked the hospital to contact him if there were such children in the future.
He then met the specialist of HIV/AIDS, Divya Mithale, requesting for her help to adopt such kids. Mithale helped him in adopting 2 abandoned kids.
Residing in an average house in Navi Mumbai with his wife and two children it was difficult for him to make space for the new additions in the family. But he made that happen. In 2009, The Bless Foundation was born.
Reji took a place on rent in 2009 in Navi Mumbai for his family and 2 HIV-Positive children. Initially it was troublesome to make the ends meet, as Rajib could afford only one mattress, on which his four children slept.
Thomas and his wife Mini would sleep without the mattress in discomfort. As more and more people got to know about this extraordinary thing Rajib was doing they started donating beds, grains and money to them. Reji’s family had grown from 4 to 24 as more HIV-positive children were sent to him to be taken care of.
Rajib’s wife has been his backbone. Both the husband and the wife never discriminate between the kids. They shower them with unconditional love and equivalently scold them too when they are wrong. Both of them are making the kids aware of what they are suffering from and are themselves fearless.
Rajib does not believe in doing something extraordinary or special. He had told YourStory.com, “I can proudly say that my family of 24 is overflowing with love! Being HIV-Positive doesn’t mean that they have to cut their life short… they can live as long as a normal person, and that’s what I’m here for… to save them and give them a long life. And with love and care, everything is possible. These children all call me ‘Papa Reji’, and it’s the duty of a father to protect, so I’m not someone special – I’m just a father looking after my children.”
A noble thought, nobler deed.