When our Head of Mission Development, Zoe Bunter visited a leprosy hospital in Nigeria last year, she wasn’t prepared for the profound emotional effect the experience would have on her.
This little girl – just 10 years old – was being treated for leprosy.
I was in Nigeria and it was a scorching hot day. I was grateful for the shade as the nurse and I entered the hospital building. We began walking through the men’s ward and then into the women’s, but I was surprised to see a little girl sitting on one of the beds.
At first I thought she was with her mother, the patient, but then I realised I was wrong. It was the other way around. This little girl – just 10 years old – was being treated for leprosy. As I went back to my room that night I felt desperately sad for little Akifah and her family.
It is so desperately unfair and unjust!
After the pain of sadness, sitting there in my room, came anger. Why is this horrific disease still attacking innocent children? Why, when their young lives are already so hard, are they the victims? It is so desperately unfair and unjust!
As I watched Akifah in the ward, I started to think of my own daughter, Molly. She used to love to dress up in her sparkly dressing-up clothes, dancing with abandon in front of the TV when Strictly Come Dancing was on, in the run up to Christmas! Akifah has had this abandon stolen away from her by the effects of leprosy.
Help make Christmas a time to celebrate for all families
This Christmas, give one extra present to that little girl or little boy who will be told they have leprosy today. A generous offering of just £24 could cure a child of leprosy, please click here.
Gifts left in Wills account for a third of our income, funding one in four life-transforming projects. Read on to learn more about Samir, a graduate of Bankura Vocational Training Centre (VTC), who despite being diagnosed with leprosy at 16 has gone on to become a successful businessman.
Samir is 36 years old and lives in Bankura, India with his wife and two daughters, aged twelve and four. 20 years ago, when Samir was just 16, he noticed light patches on his skin and was told to go to Hospital. It was there he received the diagnosis – leprosy. As a young boy Samir found his diagnosis embarrassing and was very worried about what the future would hold.
Thankfully, Samir’s leprosy was found and treated at an early stage and so he did not develop any disabilities. After he had completed 2 years of MDT treatment the Government Hospital told him about Bankura Vocational Training Centre (VTC). The VTC provides training to approximately 150 young people affected by leprosy or disability, enabling them to access employment and become financially independent after graduating. Samir took the advice of the Hospital and went to Bankura VTC where he trained to be a mechanic.
When we visited Samir recently, it was great to see how he has turned his life around. He now runs a thriving motorcycle repair business and employs seven people. Samir said that if he hadn’t had the opportunity to train at Bankura VTC then he would have had to go into cultivation work or would be sitting idle at home.
Samir’s success shows how a small investment in someone can help them transform their lives. Thanks to the training Samir received he was able to set up his own business and is financially independent – something he would not have thought possible when he was diagnosed with leprosy at a young age. He has a total income of 40,000 rupees a month (around £460) and uses 12,000 of this to pay his seven employees. He is already giving training to other students and would like to expand his business as much as possible in the future.
When asked at Bankura he said, “Bankura is helping people to set up in the community.”
Leaving a gift in your Will can help more people like Samir escape the devastating effects of leprosy, providing hope for the future. For more information please click here.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)
Born and educated in Brazil, Evelyne Leandro moved to Germany to start a new life. She learned a new language, secured an exciting new job and made new friends. Then some patches appeared on her leg. Many examinations later, she was finally diagnosed in 2012. It was leprosy.
Read on to find out more about Evelyne’s journey in an interview with Katharine Jones.
Q. You were young, educated, with a new job, a new language, a new life ahead of you and then you were diagnosed with leprosy. How did that make you feel?
Even as an informed person, my first thought was that I was being punished for something I’d done wrong. It was the age-old image we have of the disease that concerned me. Of course, I hadn’t done anything wrong to deserve this, but I was already desperate. The idea of giving up everything I had conquered at that time was very painful. Starting a new life isn’t easy. In another country even worse. And ill? I had an idea what kind of future I would have and that was very scary.
Q. What did you family back home in Brazil think and how did that make you feel?
My family in Brazil, especially my mother, was very supportive. But the distance and the feeling of impotence were there, and I had to deal with my mother’s feelings too. She wanted to help, but didn’t know exactly how. She was in Brazil, I was in Germany. Bringing her to Berlin would be an additional issue for me, because I wanted this experience for her to be special. And I would need to be brave for both of us. I wasn’t strong enough for that. However our exchange during the whole process was very important for me. I could tell her my fears and she would listen to me.
Q. What was your husband’s reaction to your diagnosis and how did that make you feel?
At the first moment, he was as desperate as me because it was difficult to understand how this diagnosis could be possible, and what the next months or years would be like. But I believe, my husband was one of the pillars of my healing process. He supported me a lot and ensured me every day that I was loved no matter how I felt or looked like. That gave me a feeling of belonging. At least, I wasn’t alone.
Q. What was your employer’s reaction to your leprosy diagnosis?
My employer didn’t know about my diagnosis until I published my book. And at that moment, I wasn’t an employee anymore.
Q. Can you explain why the leprosy reactions upset you so much?
The many ups and downs during a long-term treatment are the most difficult part of it. One doesn’t ever have peace. When I needed time to concentrate on my healing I was surprised with a leprosy reaction. That meant a break on the treatment, more steroids and pain. With the pain and the other issues that a reaction brings, it’s difficult to focus on the most important thing: mental health.
Q. What was the one thing that upset you the most?
Not only were the reactions difficult for me. The side effects of the disease were the worse! It caused many other problems, such as depression, suicidal thoughts and weakness. I had to fight against the disease and the side-effects. It was a huge effort to maintain my sanity. A lot of therapy, and writing helped me with that.
Q. What was the worst moment and how did that make you feel?
The worst moment was, for me, was when the treatment ended and a couple of weeks later my body was reacting without the medicines. I thought, I had to start all over again and that would be the end for me. I couldn’t imagine going through all that again. I was feeling crazy until I went into therapy again, and with the support of my husband and doctor, I mastered the situation.
Q. What was the best moment and how did that make you feel?
The best moment was one year after the end of my treatment, sitting in a café in Berlin, I began to think of all the things I had lived, learned and overcome until that day. It was a relief. It was a magical moment for me. I was feeling free. I was proud of me. I made it!
To read more about Evelyne’s epic journey and how she conquered leprosy, please find her book here.