The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 4, 2013

Genevan seeks protein for HIV victims

By MARGIE NETZEL - mnetzel@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

Waves of heat rise from the hot dirt in India as children run from school to their home at the orphanage.

Geneva native Rocky Braat is there to welcome them inside, where the children will experience all they know of family, all they know of love.

Braat, a 2001 Geneva High School graduate and graphic designer, cares for 33 HIV-positive children at the orphanage in Chennai, India. His work is the subject of the documentary film and 2013 Sundance Film Festival winner “Blood Brother.”

While the children play in the shade or rest in their beds, Braat worries about their health, their medications and the nutritional value of their meals.

An online community of support has begun around Braat’s efforts to enrich the lives of the children. Right now, the group is working to raise $5,000 to supply milk and eggs to the orphanage for one year.

“Eggs are 4 rupees each. The orphanage uses 66 eggs per day (265 rupees), which is roughly $6 per day or $2,190 a year,” Braat said. “Milk packets are 17 rupees each and the orphanage consumes 30 packets a day, which is roughly $10 per day, or $3,723 a year.

The fundraising at www.rally.org has brought in $2,330 so far from 90 supporters.

Braat said the eggs and milk are much-needed dietary staples for the children.

“Basically to sustain the lives of our children, they need a highly nutritious diet,” he said. “We literally have to over feed them just to combat the effort of HIV and the side effect of the anti-retroviral drugs.”

The children are always losing weight, Braat said.

“They lose the weight so much so that we limit their physical activity,” he said.

The milk and eggs are a big part of the orphanage’s budget.

“Our children each drink three cups of milk a day and eat two eggs a day,” Braat said. “These are only two of the staple foods that the kids receive. We don’t currently receive any support from the government, the home operates completely off in kind donations. By meeting this need, it helps us to be able to meet other needs that may not otherwise be possible.”

The link to donate is at www.rally.org/bloodbrother.

Braat’s talent in graphic design, photography and writing tells the story of the Chennai orphans, too.

He is selling his book “I Was Always Beautiful” as a fundraiser for the children. It is available through www.animalmediagroup.com and Braat’s website www.wemustsotheycan.com. He collects donations, via PayPal, too.

For more information on Braat’s work and the orphans of Chennai, visit www.bloodbrotherfilm.com.