Hana Hill blogs about her experiences in India with the CALL For Change competition winners
On April 8 we visited The Leprosy Mission’s Centre in Faizabad. The work that The Leprosy Mission Trust India are doing there truly is amazing, rebuilding people’s lives from the young to the old, and all of the students of the Vocational Training Centre (VTC) appeared to be so happy to be learning. Their dedication and commitment goes far beyond what we know from the western education system. The students’ days are structured and filled with all of the important elements for achievement. In the mornings they rise at 5am, exercise and then study; they then get ready for their day, eat breakfast and go to the chapel for devotions, after which they have an assembly presented by a different house group each day before commencing a day of classes.
As we met and spoke to the students as well as the staff it was clear that the approach taken here was one of a holistic nature, focusing not only on the students’ educational needs but also their social and spiritual needs. The morning assemblies were designed to improve confidence and public speaking, classes were run to increase their chances of future employment, and living at the VTC enabled the students to slowly build new lives for themselves. When the students finished their courses they would be secured with placements arranged by the centre, whether this were in mechanics, tailoring, ICT, computers or electrical repairing, The Leprosy Mission Trust India were able to provide their students with a better future.
We spoke with a young girl named Reeta, she was 18 years old and came to be at the VTC through a recommendation from her Aunt who had been receiving treatment for leprosy at the hospital. Reeta is studying a formal course to become qualified as a tailor and talked to us about her experiences.
“When I first came to the centre I was very shy and barely spoke out or looked up, but with the help of the staff here I now feel confident and happy to be gaining a qualification and I look forward to getting a job. I enjoy my life on campus and my family and friends visit every Sunday. I feel anxious about leaving the centre and all that I have come to know, but I came here to learn a trade and have a better future.”
I’m sure that with the hope, confidence and skills that she has learnt, alongside the other students at the VTC, she will have a bright and successful future.
Later in the day we met some of the elderly men living at the Snehalaya (mercy home). Their family and friends had abandoned them, taking them to the hospital some 20 years before because they had leprosy and leaving them there. As soon as I met these men my eyes filled up with tears for the inhumanity of the situation. The men told us that people used to come and visit often, but now, they rarely come. One of the men, Dandiram, said that he loved to sing and that he had been waiting for an opportunity to sing to someone. He sang a song to us in Hindi about Jesus, and how he came to earth and was nailed to the cross, to die and to rise again after three days. He used his hands, visibly affected by leprosy, to act out the song to us.
After this he talked to us about how he had been nearly dead when he had come to be at the TLM Centre at Faizabad, and how he had been given a new life. I wasn’t sure if he meant physically or spiritually but I felt that he met both. Dandiram told us that he has great grandchildren who occasionally come to visit him; at first this made me feel happy, but then he told us that they come only to take what he has, which from what I could see around me was very little. I was difficult for me to understand why and how people could behave in such a way towards their own family. Although I had read about it on paper, meeting people who had been rejected from their families because of leprosy was an entirely different experience, which brought tears to my eyes.