Father-of-two Reji Thomas has welcomed 22 abandoned children into his family home in Mumbai, India, all of whom have been affected with HIV and AIDS.
‘Papa Reji’, as he is known, saw a girl affected with HIV sleeping outside DY Patil hospital. Seeing she was weak, he offered her food and when she asked for noodles he was unable to find any.
The 43-year-old promised to return the following evening.
“She passed away that night and that incident kept haunting me, so I went inside the hospital and asked them to contact me if there were any such children in the future,” he told Humans of Bombay.
In the post on Facebook, Thomas says two orphaned children were sent to him.
In 2009 Papa Reji had trouble making ends meet. Renting a room in Bombay, the four children shared one mattress.
Of his household he says: “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 any normal person and that’s what I’m here for… to save them and give them a long life.
“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.”