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Calgary’s Tribe of Lambs is fundraising to help alleviate HIV epidemic for youth in India

Thinking locally and acting globally to help alleviate the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS afflicting children in India, is Calgary based charity Tribe of Lambs.

The registered Canadian charity, co-founded by Bobbi Paidel, has worked for the past eight years to combat an epidemic of the disease that has disproportionately affected children and youth under 15 in that nation.

“Since 2014, I’ve been travelling to and from India, and in 2016, we had been doing small little fundraisers here and there to support different marginalized children’s groups in northern India. We became aware of the situation for children and people living with HIV in India,” said Paidel.

“For us, coming from North America, coming from Canada, HIV kind of feels like a dealt-with issue, if you will. There are not many kids in Canada that are living with HIV, are affected by HIV anymore, especially kids under the age of 16. In India, it is still very prevalent.”

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, less than 0.1 per cent of all new HIV infections in 2021 were among youth under 15, and less than 0.3 per cent of all HIV cases are among that group.

In India, according to data from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, approximately six per cent of new infections for HIV in 2022 were from youth under 15.

Helping hundreds of children and youth

Paidel said that Tribe of Lambs has been working to fund-raise to provide health care, education, housing, and food for HIV infected youth and their caretakers—often who are facing extreme poverty.

“A lot of these kids that were surveyed, they come from more rural areas where education is already very limited. The discrimination that they face in education centres, prohibits them from going to school even further,” Paidel said.

“We partner with local organizations to really ensure that these kids are getting access to not only basic education, because in India, government education is very, very poor, but actually education that’s going to ensure that they’re breaking the cycle of poverty.”

Over the past year, Tribe of Lambs has been able to send 57 children and youth with HIV to school and college, provide them with uniforms, backpacks, school supplies, and pay for their tuition.

In the past year they’ve been able to provide school lunches for 67 children with HIV, 6 days a week for 10 months of the year.

“This year, we’re just launching a pilot project… working with 10 families, supporting the children’s educational needs of the children of HIV-positive sex workers.”

Since 2017, Tribe of Lambs in conjunction with Rays Children’s Home in Jaipur, India, has been able to help 288 children and 37 college students.

Impacting a wider community from Calgary in September

Paidel said that as a city, Calgary is very focused on local causes—something she said was important given the number of Calgarians who also are in need.

“I think that this is just a different opportunity for people to recognize the difference that we can make,” she said.

Tribe of Lambs is holding its annual fundraiser on Sept. 10 at the Calcutta Cricket Club, which she said in its own way would continue the Calgary tradition of helping locally.

The fundraiser is being supported by local businesses and organizations, including the Calcutta Cricket Club, live artist Tiffany Lynn Cuffley, and Calgary Bollywood Dance entertainers Bollywood Signature Dance.

“It is just a really beautiful time that we can celebrate Calgary with all these incredible small businesses, and artists, and musicians,” Paidel said.

“Also, it’s amazing, because we go back… they know where Calgary is, they know about the Calcutta Cricket Club, they know about this community of people all the way Canada that are really rallying for them and their education.”

For more information on Tribe of Lambs, see tribeoflambs.com.