Fighting the scourge of discrimination that often accompanies HIV, the Santa Clara Foundation in Santiago de Chile has worked since 1994 to ensure that children with the virus experience God’s love and have a better quality of life.
“When you see a child it's very easy to see the face of Christ in him,” said Sister Nora Valencia of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Jesus, director of the home since 2008. “The child just by himself inspires a lot of tenderness, inspires you to protect him, to love him.”
It is a face “with hope, because we're…working so that the children live, and live well,” she told EWTN News.
The children at the home suffer from HIV – or human immunodeficiency virus. Despite common misconceptions, not all people with HIV will go on to develop AIDS – or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, Sister Nora stressed.
Therefore, she clarified, it is incorrect to say that the children at their home have AIDS. “We are always making every effort so they don't develop AIDS” and if they ever do develop it, that it remains under control.
While there is no cure for HIV, there are treatments that can help “make the lives of these children normal” and slow the progression of the disease, greatly increasing life expectancies, she explained.
The Santa Clara Home is currently caring for 60 families and has three levels of care. The internal system offers care for up to 17 children living at the facility. The intermediate system offers follow up care, as well as psychological and sociological evaluations, for children living at home. The external system offers workshops and food baskets for families who need them.
Thanks to a system of sponsors and volunteers, five legal adoptions of children with HIV have taken place since 2008.
Sister Nora said that working with these children, “your maternal instinct develops 200 percent” and “if the Lord sent him here, it's so we first instill love and then all the rest.”
She hopes that the children “will be happy” and “tomorrow when they reach adulthood they won't have to lie about their illness.” She further has hope that society may “accept them the way they are and give them the opportunity that at times wasn't given to their parents. That no one be discriminated against because of ignorance.”
The Santa Clara Home obtained their own plot of land in Santiago after submitting a project to the Regional Government. They now must raise funds for the construction of a house designed for the children, since the place they are in currently is a former Franciscan convent from 1870 which will likely not withstand another earthquake like the one that occurred in 2010.