The power of a Gift

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.

Blog - Samir and Family
Samir with his family. Photo: Kate Gent

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.

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One of Samir’s employees.

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.

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Thanks to you Samir’s daughter will be able to grow up free from the devastating effects of leprosy

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)






Blog - Evelyne Leandro
Evelyne Leandro was diagnosed with leprosy when she was living in Berlin, Germany.  Photo: Tom Bradley

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.


Success for leprosy champion Sharidah as village gains a water pipeline

Sharidah is a leprosy champion for her community and has recently played an important role in securing a big change for their lives.
Sharidah is a leprosy champion for her community and has recently played an important role in securing a big change for their lives. Photo: Hassan Nezamian

Your gifts to the CREATE appeal are training people affected by leprosy to become ‘champions’ in their communities who can effectively challenge discrimination and fight for change. Read on to learn more about Sharidah, one of our first leprosy champions, already making a difference in her village.

60-year-old Sharidah lives in a leprosy community in Chhattisgarh state, close to The Leprosy Mission’s Champa Hospital. She’s been living there since she felt forced out of village where she grew up, when her husband rejected her because of her leprosy. Sharidah had been suffering the effects of the disease for some time, but it was when they became visible, with damage to her hands and feet, that he threw her out and kept her from seeing their children.

Thankfully now they’re grown up, her children ignore the negative attitudes surrounding leprosy and often come to visit, making sure Sharidah is part of her grandchildren’s lives. For some years now she’s been part of a self-help group that has enabled her to set up a small grocery store and earn a regular income, but sadly, the stigma of leprosy still remains. Sometimes people don’t want to shop there because of her disabled hands and feet, so her customers are mainly other people affected by leprosy.

Sharidah in her shop
Sharidah in her shop. Photo: Hassan Nezamian

When we first met Sharidah, we soon realised she had a real passion for creating change in her community. She was keen to improve life for other people affected by leprosy because, as she told us, she wants to ‘give something back’ when The Leprosy Mission has done so much to help her in the past.

Sharidah was excited to learn about the ways the CREATE project would be working in her local area. The aim of CREATE is to combat stigma and discrimination and improve life chances for people affected by leprosy. Part of this involves training up people to become ‘leprosy champions’ who can become advocates for those around them. It was clear from talking to Sharidah that she would be an ideal leprosy champion for the village – and she was more than happy to help.

When we visited the village again recently, it was amazing to see first-hand the difference Sharidah has been helping to make. Her enthusiasm to see change happen means that this year, the community will have a piped water supply for the first time.

Around nine years ago, a new water tower was built on the edge of the community. It was built to supply the whole of the surrounding area, but the leprosy village was not included in this, leaving residents without a pipeline. Sharidah’s self-help group wrote to different local government offices seeking answers but received no reply.

Eventually, they were promised that work on a connecting pipeline would soon start, but once the work had started it was soon put on hold. Sharidah – now trained as a leprosy champion – and her friends organised protests at the water tower and got in contact with authorities once more to explain why clean water is something everyone should have access to and why leprosy communities should not be forgotten about.

Before long, they saw success. Work on the pipeline started up again and Sharidah told us she was confident that it would be completed this time. If not, she already has plans for a new campaign! When finished, the pipeline will bring water to a communal tap in the village and eventually, will pipe water into individual homes.

Sharidah’s success in making change for people affected by leprosy shows just how much of a difference leprosy champions have the potential to make – and what can be achieved by people standing on behalf of their communities against discrimination. Thanks to you, many more people like Sharidah will be trained as leprosy champions – and many more lives will change as a result.

Sharidah with CREATE project staff