Dr Ashok Rau and Late Karl Sequeira founded Freedom Foundation in 1992. With a dream and little or no finances, the two of them set out on a path of establishing a de-addiction center in Bangalore. The unique model of the de-addiction facility and the passion to reach out to people in need soon led to an HIV/ AIDS program. Ever since Freedom Foundation’s initiatives have spread rapidly across the four South Indian States; Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Goa.
Ashok. K. Rau, one of the most visible and compassionate faces of India's campaign against HIV/AIDS, is the founder of Freedom Foundation, the Bangalore based NGO working in the field of Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS. A highly resourceful and experienced psychotherapist, Ashok Rau established the Foundation in 1992 in Bangalore to address the needs of people suffering from substance abuse.
Today Dr. Rau is a distinguished expert and international consultant on care & support for PLWHAs. He has served in various capacities at all levels- state/ national and international levels. He has contributed immensely in terms of developing the national response to HIV/AIDS.
Through Freedom Foundation, Dr. Rau articulates the need for unhindered access to quality care for PLWHAs and recognising their rights. His approach to HIV/AIDS is marked by concern for humanity and the recognition of the rights of deprived communities and individuals. He involves positive people in the planning and decision making process of Freedom Foundation and campaigns for protective and instrumental laws that will influence government policies in favour of positive people. He contributes to the literature, research and discussion on HIV/AIDS and disseminates the lessons learnt at the Foundation. He is also involved in the training of caregivers, NGOs, CBOs and strives to build the capacity of other organizations. Dr. Rau’s keen engagement of community leaders at district and village panchayat levels, spiritual leaders and media personnel inorder to spread messages for awareness; creation and de-stigmatisation of the disease is widely appreciated.
Freedom Foundation is the recipient of many International awards for its work in the Substance Abuse / HIV/AIDS sector. UNAIDS has published a case study of the Freedom Foundation as a “Center of Excellence” and “Best Practice” on Comprehensive Care. The first Commonwealth Award for “Action on HIV/AIDS” was conferred on Dr. Rau and the Freedom Foundation for its “Outstanding Work in Comprehensive Care”. The US based ASHOKA – Innovators for the Public, conferred a Fellowship award to Dr. Ashok Rau, Executive Trustee & CEO, Freedom Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. UNAIDS has presented the Freedom Foundation with an award for its work an award for “Excellence in Community Care” this was presented by Dr. Peter Piot (Executive Director-UNAIDS). The Terry Sanford Institute of Public Health (Duke University - USA) has conferred Dr. Rau with an honorary doctorate; he has since then been appointed a “Senior Research Fellow “in the Universities Health Inequalities Program.
Karl Sequeira founded Freedom Foundation along with Ashok Rau. An experienced addiction therapist Karl was known for his compassionate approach towards all seeking help at the Foundation's doors. True to their goal of establishing a treatment center with a difference Karl always ensured that no addict seeking recovery was ever turned away. Even during the formative years when the Foundation faced some of its most severe financial hurdles Karl was instrumental for leading by faith.
A person who preferred to stay away from the limelight, Karl was enjoyed being involved and working for the clients. He was instrumental in launching the Foundation's policy to provide all HIV positive children with anti retro viral medication free of cost. That dream has grown over the years and we wish he were around to witness the benefit that it has made in the lives of so many kids.
It was in January 04 that Karl proceeded on vacation to France along with his lovely wife and son and little did we all know that he would never return. At the airport, he suffered a massive heart attack that took his life. However his spirit continues to dwell in all the Foundations endeavours.
As a token of remembrance the HIV care center at Hyderabad was renamed in his memory and the kids till date at the Hyderabad home miss and fondly remember him as a father figure.