For World Leprosy Day on 25 January, we focused on our life-transforming work at Anandaban Hospital in Nepal. It was amazing to see such a fantastic response to our challenge to ‘reach to the top of Mount Everest’ and we were thrilled to make it to the summit. We asked that on World Leprosy Day, you might give a ‘helping hand’ to people like Gita, a young woman with a tragic story.
When Gita, 29, was diagnosed with leprosy, she kept the news from her husband. She was worried about how he would react, due to the terrible stigma surrounding the disease in many parts of Nepal. But when an ulcer on her foot would not heal, he wanted to know what the problem was, and she felt she had no choice but to tell him. Sadly, Gita’s husband left her and their three children.
Rejected by her husband’s family and also by her neighbours, Gita was devastated. She toiled as an agricultural labourer to provide for her family. But her foot, desensitised by leprosy, was easily injured, making it hard to work. Her in-laws refused to support her, even though her youngest child was just a few months old.
Because of the generous support of people like you, our staff could provide a lifeline to Gita. She regularly visits Anandaban Hospital for treatment and advice on looking after her foot. And excitingly, she became a member of a local self-help group that has enabled her to set up a shop – a reliable source of income that will provide for her family and means she can work safely without injury.
Gita’s story of the rejection she suffered is particularly tragic, which is why we wanted to share the amazing update we’ve had about how things are going for her. The rehabilitation work and counselling done by staff at Anandaban often focuses on healing the hurts caused by the stigma of leprosy. They were interested to get in contact with Gita’s husband to try to break down the barriers stigma had set up between the couple.
After some time, staff from Anandaban were able to visit Gita’s husband at home and he agreed to start attending counselling and leprosy education sessions. It’s an amazing testament to their life-changing work that his attitudes towards people affected by leprosy have completely turned around. What’s more, he and Gita have been reconciled and are reunited as a couple once more, bringing up their children together and working together in the shop Gita set up in conjunction with her self-help group.
Gita’s story shows that leprosy doesn’t just cause physical damage. But there’s good news: the holistic care available from our dedicated staff and the opportunities our projects provide mean lives can be completely rebuilt – even when that seems an impossible task. Thanks to you, Gita has a happier, more secure future ahead of her – and the ‘helping hand’ you gave to people like her for World Leprosy Day means Anandaban Hospital will be able to do the same for others.