Signs of Hope

Regional Manager Jenny Foster reflects on her recent visit to Niger.

Being led into a narrow darkened room with a dirt floor, I thought it was empty. Then Adam, our wonderful Community worker at TLM Niger, introduced me to Habsou, a woman so disfigured by the ravages of leprosy, and sat almost hidden in one corner of this room on an old worn rug. She tried to stand up to greet me, but I immediately touched her shoulder to encourage her to remain seated and took up my place sitting with her on the rug.

I was in Danja, a growing village in Maradi district in the south of Niger, to meet people affected by leprosy and hear their stories. Habsou was the worst affected of anyone I had met – facially disfigured and severely disabled and, as she told me, she has recently gone blind. But as she told me her tragic story of being locked away by her family because of leprosy, self-harming and then losing her fingers and toes to leprosy and being forced to beg to survive, the strength of character of this woman to overcome all of this just shone through. When I asked her what her hope was for the future she said “I really hope The Leprosy Mission can help more leprosy affected people earlier so they don’t have to become dependent as I am”. To be focussed on the needs of others impacted by this horrible disease, when she has so much to deal with herself; I found this deeply humbling.

And as I spent time with Habsou and her small family, I saw the signs of hope that TLM has brought here; the house that we built for her, the chicken that provide eggs, the latrine that provides dignity and sanitation, the seeds that provide vegetables and grain for daily food, however poor it may seem to us. Adam explained that the village is being transformed through livestock and agricultural assistance, paid for by our supporters, enabling people affected by leprosy to be self-sufficient and not need to beg anymore.

There is so much more to do here – in such a poor country with no welfare system and severely limited medical supplies, people affected by leprosy really are at the bottom of the pile. And because of the stigma of leprosy, too many sufferers still stay hidden away and don’t get the treatment they desperately need to prevent leprosy causing disability.

But the community at Danja is one that, despite the many tragic stories hidden behind dusty walls, is being lifted out of desperate poverty and despair by the work of Adam and others like him, all funded by our wonderful supporters. And I felt so proud to be a small part of that work, reaching out to the poorest most rejected people in our world and bringing hope and dignity. Habsou told Adam she felt honoured to be visited by people from England. But I was the one to be honoured – to be able to meet such a survivor, share her story and her determination to overcome the worst that leprosy had thrown at her and therefore try to prevent others from suffering as she has done. Honoured indeed.

Please use our Lent Devotional to pray for Habsou and her family, for others in Niger and across Africa to be found quickly, diagnosed and receive the cure, so they don’t suffer as Habsou did.

www.worldleprosysunday.org.uk

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Seeking shelter in a life full of storms: Munia’s story

After her own family set fire to her, Munia came to Purulia Hospital where she can receive ongoing care and support for her leprosy. She is one of the young people in our nativity this Christmas, hoping you’ll hear her story.

Munia is only 25 years old yet her story is unimaginable. As a young girl, she developed patches on her legs but her parents didn’t take her to a doctor and so the disease took hold – causing life changing and devastating disability. She was eventually diagnosed with leprosy in 2009.

A few years later, her parents and her brother died leaving her all alone.

In India, where Munia lives, the government offers a welfare programme for orphans like her to receive a monthly allowance. But in such an impoverished country, money like this can cause jealousy and violence. Munia’s uncles were so jealous that at night, they came to Munia’s house with petrol and set her alight.

When Munia survived, her family beat her with sticks until she ran away.

She fled to the railway station and lived there for two weeks. It was there a stranger noticed the severe ulcers on her hands and legs and took her to Purulia Leprosy Mission Hospital. Munia now lives in the safety and shelter of the Mercy Home.

Kindness from supporters has saved her life.

Munia now has a safe place to call home where she is loved and cared for. She was given a wheelchair to help her move freely around the hospital grounds and has recently begun walking in shoes especially made for her. She has learnt to read and write and has taught herself crafts including embroidery and making rugs from rags.

Your support means we can continue to care for orphans like Munia.

Without the care of the Mercy home, Munia would’ve had nowhere to go.

A gift from you this Christmas means we can continue to care for Munia, and others like her, to make sure they don’t go through the same devastation in the future.

Act today to help someone like Munia, give a gift online.

“I felt desperately sad for little Akifah and her family”

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.