#GivingTuesday – a global call to action

Giving Tuesday- Help good go viral

Over the last few days,  and with the growing popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we’ve seen retailers offer consumers the opportunity to snap up bargains galore. Advertisements and the media have been telling us that it’s good to spend, spend, spend. But what if we took one day to demonstrate to the world how good it is to give? What if we took one day to help a cause we’re passionate about, make a new commitment to giving or volunteering, and raise awareness about the work of charities?

Giving Tuesday is a global movement to create an international day of giving. It’s a call to action for everyone who wants to give something back. First launched in the USA in 2012, this year is the first year that UK charities and businesses have joined to together to get involved.

Tomorrow – and this week – could you use your time, your money, or your voice to help a cause you really care about? Many people taking part in Giving Tuesday will be using social media to spread the word about what they’re doing to mark the day. On December 2nd 2013 there were 200,634 Tweets made using the #GivingTuesday hashtag – sharing everything from pictures of fundraising events to donations.

Here are some ideas to get you started if you’re thinking of taking part:

Give a Gift for Life. It’s simple – choose a gift from our catalogue that will directly benefit the life of someone affected by leprosy. We have a range of gifts to suit all pockets – from educational supplies to medicines to farming tools and seeds and even a house! All gifts are directly linked to the projects where they are needed the most, meaning that every penny you spend will benefit someone disadvantaged by leprosy.

Send a Christmas card to someone affected by leprosy. Help them know that they’re not alone this Christmas.

– Get involved with supporting our work through prayer: there are prayer points on our website or you can sign up online to become a prayer ambassador and receive updates by email

– Start collecting used stamps for us. Did you know that they can help transform the lives of people affected by leprosy?

– Get in touch with us and find out about our UK volunteering opportunities.

– Plan and hold a fundraising event to benefit our work. We have plenty of ideas to help you out!

– If you’ve chosen one of the above, think about taking an UNselfie! Instead of simply taking a picture of yourself and sharing it on social media, take a picture of yourself holding a sign that explains the cause you’re supporting and how you’re giving. It’s a great way to spread the word and encourage more people to join in

We hope you’ll join us in supporting this worldwide call to give something back this Tuesday.

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Jenny’s Nepal blog: Final reflections

Blue mountains, Nepal
Blue mountains, Nepal

Saturday 22 November

God is alive and well and living in Nepal.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not being flippant. We were in church this morning and the presence of God was so strong. Apparently the Nepalese church is one of the fastest growing in the world at present. The church was filled with passionate, worshipping people.

The language is different but the people are the same. The culture and the clothes are different but the Spirit is the same. Some of the songs we recognise, some are different – but hands are raised and the Spirit is the same.

A widow just stood up and thanked the church for paying all the medical bills for her husband when he was ill. His death left her with mounting debt but the church paid it in full.

Love in action: that is what we are seeing on a daily basis, and I know it doesn’t just happen here. Mike Griffin says that he feels Anandaban is a ‘thin place’, a place where heaven meets earth. If there is a reason for that, it has to be, in my opinion, because there are so many people here ‘being Jesus’ to the people around them, and the air is filled with their prayers.

Sunday 23 November

My husband is reading a book called When helping hurts: How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor…and yourself. A strange title but reading it has changed my perspective on how to make giving and helping the poor more effective in the long term.

As far as I understand it, the book suggests there are three ways of helping the poor. Firstly, relief, in response to an obvious crisis – like giving food, clothes and blankets. Essential, and possibly the easiest one for us as individuals to participate in.

Secondly, rehabilitation, which takes the needs of the person one step further, taking them back to where they were before the crisis by working together with them.

Thirdly, development, where the potential and the desires of the person are developed and they regain control of their lives, much like the self help groups we have seen. This type of help is relational and takes much longer to achieve as changes within communities comes very slowly and at a price to those involved.

The book also suggests that it is difficult for one organisation to achieve all three types of help. From what I have seen, The Leprosy Mission does all three very successfully.

The relief work – the first aid treatment, if you like, at Patan Hospital. The rehabilitation via reconstructive surgery at Anandaban, and the physiotherapists working to teach people how to use their hands, teaching self care, and taking control of their lives again. The development work of the self help groups which grow into cooperatives, income generating loans, scholarships for education…whatever the individual wants for their life.

The fact that The Leprosy Mission does all three may be a miracle but it is envisioned by those willing to step out and take a risk, and it is worked out over the years with patience, diplomacy and love.

What a testimony to the love of God and the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit.

Flower in the grounds of Anandaban
Flower spotted in the grounds of Anandaban Hospital

Monday 24 November

We are nearly home and I wonder how things will be different for me after such a trip. It’s a question that has been asked by all of us in the group during the last few days. Whatever the change is, will it last, and will it benefit others?

I hope so. I don’t know what the future will bring for any of us but I know my perspective on life, and what matters, has changed. Things have been brought into sharper focus whilst other things seem strangely far less important. The journal I have been writing this blog in has this phrase on the front cover: ‘Be the change’.

I guess that is the message I am taking home with me today. Whatever my or your circumstances, we can ‘be the change’ where we live and work, and across the world. Yesterday by sheer coincidence was the 57th anniversary of Anandaban Hospital opening. We had a celebratory service, and one of the staff shared a bit of the history of the place. Apparently someone in the Nepalese army had a son who had leprosy. He instigated help from the Mission so that his son could be treated. To cut a long story short, the work was founded in the forest a few miles away from Kathmandu, and they called it ‘ the forest of joy’. It all began with one man’s need. One man’s request.

Everything starts with one person. A small idea mushrooms into something large that influences millions across the world. We just don’t know what God can do with us when we are willing.

Be the change and see what He can do.

You can purchase Jenny’s paintings from her trip to Nepal, created as part of her ‘Painting A Day’ project. They’re priced at £26 plus £5 postage. Go to Jenny’s Facebook page to find out which paintings are still available and simply comment to say you would like to buy one. Proceeds go to support our work.

India – global superpower or poverty stricken?

Nevertheless there is hope.

By Charlotte Orson in Kolkata

Dr Helen Roberts diagnosing Akash Singh (eight) with leprosy
Dr Helen Roberts diagnosing Akash Singh (eight) with leprosy

I didn’t know what to expect from my first trip to India.  I certainly was aware of the poverty and the fact the country is home to a third of the world’s poor.  But with the media pushing India emerging as a global superpower with its own space programme I was perplexed as to what scenes would greet me.    I needn’t have been puzzled.  Arriving in the centre of Kolkata couldn’t have been more similar to walking onto the film set of Slumdog Millionaire.  (There is an M&S nearby I’ve heard but really cannot picture this.)  The bustling streets of central Kolkata are a kaleidoscope of colour, noise and activity.  Although lined with an array of independent shops, business spills out onto the streets with people cooking, trading, eating, dancing, dressing, shaving and begging while skilfully avoiding the trams, bicycles, rickshaws and swarms of cars all frenetically beeping their horns.  (Am yet to find out what the procedure is in a real horn-beeping emergency.)An Aussie once told me that the Australians tend to divide the English into two categories – those who live in stately homes while the other half settled in more Coronation Street-style housing in back-to-back streets of terraced homes.  In India the contrast between rich and poor is far starker yet coexists side-by -side.Leprosy tends to affect the poorest of the poor and, although only mildly infectious, thrives in confined and squalid conditions.  The disease is so very stigmatised that it is little understood, even by some health workers.  Knowledge of The Leprosy Mission’s Premananda Hospital is hazy for many of Kolkata’s millions.  People often don’t reach the hospital until their bodies are ravaged by the disease.  They are barely able to walk due to nerve damage and subsequent injury to their feet and can be virtually blind as a result of leprosy.  Only then does someone remember Premananda – often dropping them on the doorstep through sheer fear of catching leprosy by entering the hospital.One by one, the unfazed staff at Premananda take these broken people and begin mending them.  Multidrug therapy – simply a course of antibiotics – clears them from disease while medics go about tackling disabilities incurred as a result.  Reconstructive surgery can see a patient walk again and a painstaking procedure of transferring muscles used for chewing to the eye area can see a patient regain their ability to blink, therefore protecting their eyes from further damage and complete blindness.These procedures see patients confined to a hospital bed for weeks.  For those having double sight-saving surgery, it can see their eyes bandaged for a minimum of three weeks while being fed only liquids due to the surgery utilising chewing muscles.  But this is a mere fraction of the time required for emotional healing.   Whether it is being outcast by a family or a sharp comment from a neighbour, all affected by leprosy carry the scars of hurt and rejection.It was with both sadness and joy that I witnessed eight-year-old Akash Singh being diagnosed with leprosy this morning.  Akash lives in a children’s home for youngsters of leprosy-affected parents (interestingly sponsored by Australian cricketer Steve Waugh).  The children usually see their parents in the school holidays but benefit from a safe home and education during term-time.  The youngsters are also monitored for the early tell-tale signs of leprosy and a group of those suspected to have the disease are brought to Premananda Hospital each month.

Today it was Akash’s turn to be told he had leprosy after staff at the home spotted a white patch on his cheek and left thigh.  Happily a course of antibiotics (admittedly taken for six months) will rid him of the disease and he is unlikely to suffer the same consequences as his parents.

The Indian authorities have previously been reluctant to acknowledge the prevalence of leprosy.  Therefore it was encouraging to learn the Government has commissioned The Leprosy Mission to carry out diagnosis and treatment of the disease in 50 out of 144 allocated ‘wards’ in Kolkata in 2013.  Those who cannot be treated in their communities will be picked up and taken to Premananda Hospital for more specialist care.

Let’s pray the Urban Leprosy Programme is successful and will see more patients like Akash being spared the consequences of this cruel disease.

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.  For you will spread out to the right and to the left.’ Isaiah 54: 2-3 (NIV)