Volunteer speakers visit Nepal

The view from Anandaban Hospital
The view from Anandaban Hospital

Jenny Hawke is the youngest daughter of the late Eddie Askew, former General Secretary of The Leprosy Mission International. She’s also a dedicated supporter and volunteer speaker, who is currently visiting Nepal along with other volunteer speakers, accompanied by Regional Manager Mike Griffin. Jenny, a watercolour artist, is painting scenes from everyday life at Anandaban Hospital as part of her Painting a Day fundraising project, and has been telling us about her experiences at Anandaban so far.

“We arrived in Kathmandu late on Sunday night, welcomed by Shovakhar Kandel, the country leader at The Leprosy Mission Nepal. Anandaban Hospital is situated in the foothills of the Himalayas, with ‘Fish Tail Mountain’ (Mount Machhapuchchhre) high in the distant sky. We are surrounded by bright green fields of mustard plants cut into the hillside. Houses cling at odd angles and the river rushes on and on down the valley.

“At the hospital we were overwhelmed by the warmth of the welcome. The loving care given to leprosy-affected people is humbling to experience. There are so many stories, so many lives disrupted by the signs of leprosy, by serious disability, and by stigma and rejection.

“I am completely at home here, and privileged to hear the stories of courage and strength, with no trace of anger or bitterness about hardships endured. There is sadness, yes, but now there is hope.”

Parvati knits while her friend Laxmi holds a hat she has knitted.
Parvati knits while her friend Laxmi holds a hat she has knitted.

“Today I met a 23-year-old woman on the surgical ward. Her name is Parvati and she has a smile that can light up the room. She has lost all fingers and most of both feet. She developed leprosy at 12 years old and living in a remote area of Nepal, didn’t know treatment existed. She continued to work in the fields and at home, gradually developing serious nerve damage in both hands and feet. By chance she heard a message on her radio about treatment for leprosy. She persuaded someone to carry her on their back in a basket to the outpatient clinic, several hours away from her home. At this point she had been unable to walk for six years.

“She was then taken to Anandaban where she has received treatment, as well as specialist shoes which means she will be able to walk again. Sadly though, it is too late for her hands, which have been irreversibly affected by the disease.

“However, in the time Parvati has been at Anandaban, she has learned to read, write and do maths, and has learnt the skill of knitting. Even with her disabilities, she can knit, and she hopes that she will be able to sell the things she makes.

“Another life changed, another story heard. Hope continues to grow in this wonderful place.”

Jenny will continue to update us on the trip as she and the group visit some of our other projects in Nepal.

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