Why U Soe Win inspires me

RS6089_Myo Chaung Village SHG_JSP5-lpr
U Soe Win

James Pender, Programmes and Advocacy Officer (Asia), first met U Soe Win on a visit to Myanmar in 2016. Ever since, he’s been inspired by the way he works to effect change in his community.

We all have people we admire, whether they are well-known figures from the past or individuals from the present. They are important in our lives as they inspire us to keep going, overcome hurdles and press on towards the vision God has given us.

The person that has inspired me most since I joined The Leprosy Mission five years ago is U Soe Win. This is partly because I have got to know him a little better than some of the other people I have met overseas, having met him on three visits to Myanmar. I also had the chance to spend a week with him at a meeting recently. There’s a picture of him in the entrance area of our office in Peterborough, so I’m reminded of him every day when I come to work.

U Soe Win is a man who is very visibly disabled as a result of leprosy. He suffered terribly both from the disease and from the stigma associated with leprosy after being diagnosed in 1983. As a result, for many years he isolated himself, locking himself away at home to avoid the pain of people treating him unkindly when they saw his leprosy-affected hands and nose.

U Soe Win is not an inspiration to me because he has overcome social prejudices and now lives a ‘normal’ life in his village. Too often, it can seem patronising when disabled people are praised for ‘being able to cope with living a normal life’. Why shouldn’t they have that chance?

Myo Chaung Village SHG_JSP5-lpr
With other members of the local disabled people’s organisation

No, I admire him because he is an exceptional individual by anyone’s standards. He’s an effective leader, heading up the disabled people’s organisation in his village that has now expanded and set up groups in neighbouring areas. The group has successfully petitioned the local council to make public facilities more accessible – for example, installing a ramp at the local school, which not only helps disabled children but also enables disabled adults to vote, as the school is used as a polling centre during elections.

U Soe Win is also a champion for the rights of others. When a young woman in his village was raped, he helped find the perpetrator and when the case stalled, he personally met with the judge involved to see that it progressed to a regional court, ensuring that the man responsible was jailed.

And his influence now extends beyond his local area. His hard work on behalf of his community, along with his positive attitude, has meant that U Soe Win has now had the opportunity to attend national and international conferences, speaking on behalf of people affected by leprosy.

It has been wonderful to see U Soe Win use his skills to become such an advocate for so many and I’m privileged to know him.

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Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. Isaiah 1: 17b NLT

A respected wife,daughter-in-law and member of her community; Rekah had no idea how leprosy could change everything

Leprosy is a cruel disease; it robs people of their health and they are frequently denied the most basic entitlements. Often, they don’t even have a voice in their local communities. At The Leprosy Mission, we don’t think that’s acceptable, so a large part of our work focuses on justice and dignity.
 
Rekah was rejected and stigmatised because of leprosy. She told her story to Neelmani, Naini hospital’s counsellor.

‘My village is more than 100km from here, so my brother brought me. Before visiting here he took me to a private doctor who said, ‘this is leprosy and you must take her to Naini hospital’. I spent a lot of time, energy and money trying to find out what my disease was.

‘Previously I worked in the fields. That made my feet worse. I have anaesthetic hands and feet. If I get a burn I don’t realise it.

Neelmani explains that Rekah has a husband and children, but he is neglectful of his family and plays no supporting role.

‘I was taking MDT [multidrug therapy, the cure for leprosy]. After a few months I developed an ulcer and was admitted. One day at home, while I was sleeping, a cat or a rat had bitten my anaesthetic foot. It was bleeding and I was very disturbed and thought ‘I will die. Now I won’t cause any problems to anyone’, so didn’t call my brother. It became worse so I called him to bring me here. He took responsibility for me and consoled me. He said, “I’ll look after you, even though it is very difficult”.

‘I’ve had some stigma from the community because of leprosy. The family and community use bad words about me. Some relatives say “she is smelly; take her to the leprosy hospital”. Before the leprosy, everyone was normal to me. I was a good wife and daughter-in-law, everyone respected me.’ 

At this point Rekah became too distressed to continue.

Rekah found medical and emotional support at Naini hospital; without it, she would still be searching for the help she so desperately needs. If you can support our work at Naini, you will help to give leprosy-affected people back their voice, dignity and purpose.

Thank you for considering a donation

Stamps and Collectables achieve another record total in 2010:

£75,382 

One thing that doesn’t change is the unfailing support and help we receive from our supporters. Our grateful thanks go to everyone who has supported our sales of stamps, coins, postcards and other small collectables. One of the recent changes is the method used in stamp production and in particular the introduction of the self-adhesive type. We welcome ALL types of stamps, even the most common, but would prefer that all self-adhesives are left on their backing and not soaked off. All stamps on paper now sell very quickly, especially if they are already trimmed. Excitingly, for the first time in our 27 years, demand has outweighed supply, so please continue to collect and encourage others to do so too!

Justice and Dignity – Our theme for 2011

On the outskirts of Awassa in Southern Ethiopia, all the rubbish and dead animal carcasses were taken to the city dump to rot. People were forced to live amongst all this waste, including families affected by leprosy. A few years ago, through the great efforts of The Leprosy Mission and local officials, an agreement was reached to clear the land and make it habitable. With the rubbish removed, new strongly built houses, with toilet and kitchen facilities, have been provided to replace the old ramshackle huts. Water is now readily available from a well and life for many families affected by leprosy has been dramatically changed. Just seeing the joy on the faces of the young people who will benefit most from these changes makes us realise how important the work of The Leprosy Mission is, not only medically but in other ways too. Our thanks to you all for helping to make changes like these possible and please KEEP ON STAMPING.

More about collecting stamps, what to do and where to send them.