Harmony Home Association, Taiwan

Harmony Home Association, Taiwan, is an organization that provides shelter, care, education and support for the neglected, including children of convicts, mothers, elders, patients unable to care for themselves, and infants with HIV/AIDs. Children are the main focus of Harmony Home Association since they suffer the most discrimination in the society.


In June, 2013, Yi Ning Wong, Nadia Ting, Holly Wheeler and I (Nicole Wu) formed a volunteer team and went to visit Harmony Home for 2 weeks. During the visit, we helped take care of the children there. Representing Children in Need, I also donated $153.05 that I raised from a bake sale at San Domenico School. The following is the story of our visit at Harmony Home.

Background

In 2007, Harmony Home Association, Taiwan, rented an apartment for the victims of HIV to live in. However, the neighbors filed a lawsuit against Harmony Home Association because they feared that they would be infected by HIV. Although, during the second trial concerning this issue the court dismissed the accusation, the patients with severe AIDS had already been relocated to another apartment that had been converted to a shelter for  women recovering from drug abuse and infants born with AIDS. This case attracted a lot of attention; many humanitarian organizations took this as an opportunity to raise awareness about this issue. As a result, the government amended the law to protect these vulnerable people.  

An HIV/AIDS rights demonstration held at Taipei City Hall in 2005

Source: Wikipedia

At Harmony Home

Qiao Ke Li

Qiao Ke Li: a five-year-old boy whose mother is in jail in Thailand. On the first two days, he ignored all of us no matter how much we tried to talk to him. While there were quite a lot of toys in the shelter, he only held onto two in particular (the car and the poke ball). Qiao Ke Li went to a kindergarten in Kaohsiung, but he was sent to Taipei because the person who took care of him went back to Thailand. Since other kids in Taipei went to either kindergartens or elementary schools during daytime, Qiao Ke Li was left behind with all the babies so there’s no one at his age that he could play with. After noticing his loneliness, I talked to him about cars, which captured his interests immediately, and found that he was a very cheerful kid. Yi Ning in particular got really close with him after offering piggy back ride and IPhone to him.

Han Ji Mama

Han Ji Mama: the lady on the right in the picture above was a former heroin addict. The very first day we arrived at the shelter, she was the one who bought us in. She 

looks intimidating, and smokes. Although she was very harsh towards the kids, it was only to make sure that they are disciplined and don’t have everything done their favor, even if they are underprivileged. Nadia noticed skid marks on her arm, but we dismissed the idea that she might have been a heroin addict. We then found out that she was indeed a former heroin addict, and that her children were taken care of by Harmony Home while she was in the prison. She decided to pay them back by staying in the shelter permanently, and has been for 10 years already.

 

Playing with the kids

 I've always loved playing around with kids, especially taking care of the babies since I'm the oldest at home, however, when I first stepped into the shelter, seeing all the children and babies there, I felt a sense of sorrowness, thinking if all of the cute faces are orphans. Not knowing what to expect, I was really nervous and didn’t know what would happen for the next two weeks. To be honest, I was really afraid because I thought that they are all HIV positives children. Because of the lack of knowledge, I was afraid that scratches on my arms and legs would cause infection.

However, after learning how HIV is not as easily passed on as I thought (the virus 

does not easily survive in air without a host), I felt really horrible about myself. Moreover, not every child at the shelter is HIV positive, and even if they are, there’s a good chance that they can be cured if they are under one year old. I put all my prejudice behind and tried to blend in with the kids.

Xin Xin is the very first baby I took care of. She turned one during our service trip. She became really attached to me and cried whenever she saw me taking care of another baby. Her mother took her to the shelter every day and left for work at 11 am. She picked her back up at 7 to 8 at night. This is to ensure that even though the mom has to work for the both of them, they do not lose the mother-daughter relationship while the daughter is growing up. Xin Xin is definitely one of the more privileged in the shelter. Unlike Xin Xin, Ti Ti, like most of the other children at the shelter, lives there permanently. With the money we raised before we went to the shelter, we bought presents for them that could help with their education. Even though Ti Ti refused to share the toys we bought for them, he was more able to put others first than most kids. When Nadia had trouble holding a crying child, he offered his help and the child immediately stopped crying. He knows how to take charge by telling children younger than him not to do this or that like a big brother in the center.

Xin Xin 

 
 

Ti Ti

Helping Xin Xin with her first step

Afterwards

After we finished the 2-week service work at Harmony Home, we decided to raise HIV/AIDS awareness among teenagers in Taiwan by giving a talk at New Taipei Municipal Hai-Shan High School. In our speech, we advocated safe sex and educated them about HIV/AIDS. We also encouraged the teens to form groups and visit the children at Harmony Homes since most of the Harmony Home children do not have parents around and would be happy to have the company.

Project by Nicole Wu

Taking care of Xin Xin 

 
 

My name is Nicole Wu, a senior at San Domenico School. During the summer of 2013, along with Yi Ning Wong, Nadia Ting, and Holly Wheeler, I decided to volunteer at Harmony Home Association in an attempt to help reintegrate the residents into society and raise awareness about them. 

More photos

 
 

HIV/AIDS Facts:

HIV and AIDS:

According to WebMD, human immunodeficiency, or HIV, is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). The virus weakens a person's ability to fight infections and cancer.
Having HIV does not always mean that person has AIDS. It can take many years for people with the virus to develop AIDS. HIV and AIDS can not be cured. However, with the medications available today, it is possible to have a normal lifespan with little interruption of quality of life.

HIV Virus

Treatment of HIV

According to WebMD, the treatment that is making this era so much more hopeful is called highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART. HAART is popularly called the "AIDS cocktail" because of its mix of drugs. The goal of AIDS cocktails today is to reduce the virus in the blood (viral load) so it is no longer detected. Though AIDS cocktails aren't a cure, they are a very effective treatment.

Transmission of HIV

According to AIDS.gov, HIV lives and reproduces in blood and other body fluids. The following fluids can contain high levels of HIV:

*Blood

*Semen (cum)

*Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)

*Breast milk

*Vaginal fluids

*Rectal (anal) mucous

Other body fluids and waste products - like feces, nasal fluids, saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or vomit - don't contain enough HIV to infect you, unless they have blood mixed in them and you have significant and direct contact with them. 

HIV can be transmitted through...

HIV/AIDS During Pregnancy 

According to American Pregnancy Association, HIV transmission from mother to child during pregnancy, labor, delivery or breastfeeding, is called perinatal transmission. Perinatal HIV transmission is the most common way children are infected with HIV. 

The United States Health Service recommends that HIV-infected pregnant women be offered a combination treatment with HIV fighting drugs to help protect her health and to help prevent the infection from passing to the unborn baby. 

A baby can become infected with HIV in the womb, during delivery or while breastfeeding. If the mother does not receive treatment, 25 percent of babies born to women with HIV will be infected with the virus. With treatment, that percentage can be reduced to less than 2 percent. 

Taiwan's epidemic of HIV/AIDS

According to Wikipedia,Taiwan's epidemic of HIV/AIDS began with the first case reported in December 1984. As of February, 2012, There were 22,296 cases of Taiwanese becoming infected with HIV. 

Of all cases:

- 92.6% are male, 7.4% female

- 39.36% are 20–29 years old

- 30% are drug users, 39% homosexuals, 21% heterosexuals.

The ratio of patients of drug users increases rapidly. Since 1984, incidence of infections through sexual contacts had accounted for 90% of all cases for most of time. But in 2005, drug using patients accounted for more than 50%. 

Taiwan is entering a new and dangerous phase of its HIV-1/AIDS epidemic, which by far accounts for the majority of its total number of HIV infection cases. The number of people living with HIV-1/AIDS in Taiwan has jumped sharply, from an 11% increase in 2003 to a 77% increase in 2004 and a 123% increase in 2005.

However, after the implementation of a harm-reduction program, a 10% decrease was seen in 2006. The current estimated number of HIV-1/AIDS cases in Taiwan is about 30,000, which suggests that the infection rate there could be greater than that in China: 30000 per 23 million (1/767) compared with 650,000 per 1.3 billion (1/2000).