The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

February 4, 2013

Geneva native subject of film that wins award



And sometimes, the children die.

“These are HIV-positive children,” he said. “They go from relatively healthy to dead within days. There is a lack of education, a lack of medicine and a lot of disease.”

He has buried three children so far.

“Seeing children die is incredibly difficult,” he said. “Three have died so far, and we anticipate who will be next. It’s very heavy.”

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 and Braat’s website He collects donations, via PayPal, too.

Then there’s Steve Hoover’s film, which won the grand jury award and audience award at Sundance.

“I became very emotional when we won the second award,” Braat said. “It was so shocking to win two (awards). It was the last thing we expected.”

The film brings an unprecedented look into the lives of severely impoverished children in India, and it speaks volumes about the country’s lack of compassion for the poor.

“My greatest fear isn’t HIV,” he said. “It’s losing my sense of compassion. I couldn’t live like that. I couldn’t live not caring about people, but that’s how it is in India.”

In his book, Braat transcribes notes scribbled on scraps of paper and the backs of receipts. He writes about a rich man pushing away a child begging for money. One black and white photo shows two small children who live at a bus stop. The caption under a color photo of a 14-year-old girl reads: “The daughter of my heart.”

This is where Braat’s conversation begins — with compassion for the poor, for the sick and for the dying.

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