Nepal home for HIV-positive orphans faces eviction

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Raj Kumar Pun took in HIV-positive orphans no one wanted, and when no one wanted to teach them either, he created a school in the shelter. But now they are running out of money, support and time.

Ten children ages 3 to 10 live in the Saphalta HIV Shiksya Sadan School — the Successful HIV Home and School — in a pink two-story house just outside the capital of this Himalayan nation. But Pun has had to sell the building — his own house — and they must be out by the end of October.

The plan had been to rent a new building, but Pun said, "Most people don't want to rent their house once they hear the children are HIV-infected."

The school has two rooms where the children sleep, one room for classes and a kitchen.

Though the government provides the children's medicine, Pun, a 30-year-old high school teacher, spends nearly his entire salary covering the rest of the bills. He also teaches the children, along with friend Uma Gurung and two part-time teachers.

Pun and Gurung started the shelter three years ago after reading about the children in a local newspaper.

"Nobody wanted to take care of these children with HIV. It is not their fault that they are sick," said Gurung, who runs a small grocery store and has two children of her own.

They traveled to southwest Nepal and came back with four young orphans. More children followed.

Government schools barely function in much of the region, and the pair quickly discovered that local private schools were unwilling to teach them. "They even said it would be bad for their business," Pun said.

So he and Gurung took up the teaching duties themselves. But they cannot say where the children will learn — or even live — when the school closes.