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.

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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)

 

 

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He’s only seven years old, but already Anil has faced so much.

Programmes Officer Shabina Sadiq found her first visit to Leprosy Mission projects in Sri Lanka to be a deeply affecting experience. Read on as she tells her story.

My trip to Sri Lanka was my first overseas visit since starting work at The Leprosy Mission this year. I knew it would be eye-opening, but I’m not sure I was prepared for just how much it would affect me.

One of the key people I met on the trip was Rev Joshua, director of Kaveri Kala Manram (KKM), one of our partner organisations in Sri Lanka. He took us on a visit to a small village called Kristokulam to meet the residents, many of whom are affected by leprosy. While there, we were introduced to Diaya – a teacher at the local school – and some of her students.

Diaya started to tell us a little about what life is like for children in Kristokulam. She explained that around half the children in her class of 34 students have been diagnosed with leprosy – a shocking statistic even in Sri Lanka, which in 2015 had the highest rates of new child cases of leprosy of any country in the world*. Then, she introduced us to Anil, a seven-year-old boy who has recently been diagnosed with the disease.

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Anil (centre), with his friend Kulendran and their teacher, Diaya.

Anil was a shy boy who kept looking at his feet as he constantly touched at the leprosy patch on his face – a patch of lightened skin that he was obviously very self-conscious about. It struck me how thin he was, so we asked Diaya whether the children were getting enough to eat.

“Their families don’t have enough food,” she told us, “So they might only be eating one meal a day.”

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Radhika, 14, is currently taking multidrug therapy (MDT) and is fortunate to have no lasting physical effects unlike her grandparents, who are both severely disabled by leprosy.

The school has been trying to help the children by providing them with a meal of lentils every day but I was shocked to see how small a portion they were being given. It’s all the school can afford.

“Malnutrition and leprosy make the children constantly weak and tired,” said Diaya. “They’re unable to concentrate in class and it affects their learning.”

Many of the children are taking multidrug therapy (MDT) to cure their leprosy. They need to be strong so their bodies can fight the disease and that means they need good nutrition. But with food as scarce as it is, that’s not easy.

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Kulendran, who is also seven years old and in Anil’s class. He’s currently taking multidrug therapy to cure his leprosy. His father is also affected by the disease.

Like many children in the region, Anil’s father went missing during Sri Lanka’s recent civil conflict and has never returned. Rev Joshua told us that Anil continues to be deeply affected by this. When I asked Anil about his hopes for the future he explained that he wants to be a policeman because he then might one day be able to find his dad.

It broke my heart to hear what had happened to Anil when he was diagnosed with leprosy: his mother and stepfather completed rejected him and threw him out of the house. I’m very close to my young nephews and it upset me so much to think of what it would be like for them to be shunned by their own family.

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Anil and his grandfather

Thankfully, Anil’s grandparents took him in and are doing the best they can for him, but life is hard for them. His grandmother is disabled as a result of leprosy so she finds it difficult to carry out everyday tasks like cooking. They have no income – and so every day Anil relies on the small meal from the school food programme.

That’s why, this winter, you can do something amazing for Anil and children like him. We want to provide them with parcels containing food packed with essential nutrients that will help them grow strong as they take the medication they need to cure their leprosy.

It costs just £7.50 to buy a food parcel lasting a month – an opportunity to start making a huge difference in the life of a child like Anil. We need to act now to ensure a brighter future for these children. They urgently need our help.

I left Kristokulam with a heavy heart. There is so much more than leprosy affecting children like Anil – hunger, rejection, the loss of loved ones. In just seven years Anil has had to go through so much. But together, we can help him and his classmates turn their lives around.

*WHO statistics

Transforming lives in Ethiopia with a new kindergarten

New kindergarten in Woreda 1 It’s always exciting to hear from our colleagues overseas how the projects you support are transforming lives and this week, we’re able to share about our slum development project in Ethiopia.

We’ve been working with our partner organisation Life in Abundance Ethiopia to transform lives in the Woreda 1 slum area of Addis Ababa, home to a community of people affected by leprosy. The project is making a difference through a combination of improved housing and sanitation, employment and micro-credit opportunities, as well as self-care training to prevent disability. One key aspect of our work there has been the building of a new kindergarten for the community – helping ensure that the poorest of the poor have access to education.

New kindergarten in Woreda 1Until recently, the only state-run (i.e. non fee-paying) school in the area didn’t have the capacity to accommodate all the local children, meaning that many were forced to stay at home, missing out on learning and play and facing the dangers of being left alone while their parents went out to work. Some children were also being taken out on to the streets to beg.

Previously, with no childcare available for the youngest children in Woreda 1, many women have had to stay at home to care for them, meaning that they cannot work. For families living in such abject poverty, a parent not working frequently means the family must go hungry, increasing their risk of malnutrition and illness.

The kindergarten is now open and already having a huge impact on the lives of people affected by leprosy and their families.

New kindergarten in Woreda 1Parents are happy to have a state pre-school facility near to their homes – for them, there are now no more worries about choosing between paying for school or simply not going. Their children are safe there, no longer deprived of early years education and enjoying modern facilities and equipment. Importantly for children so young, the focus is on learning through play and age appropriate activities.

And it’s not just the pupils who are experiencing the benefits of the kindergarten. Parents of younger children are now free to work and earn a living to support their families, and they no longer have to worry about the safety of children left at home or taken out onto the streets to work.

New kindergarten in Woreda 1Staff and parents now have plenty of plans for the kindergarten’s future, including securing support so that the most vulnerable children will be provided with uniforms and school materials, and working with parents to improve opportunities for employment.