Binta, a woman severely disabled by leprosy, who is receiving help from Chanchaga Orthopaedic Workshop in Nigeria.

A visit to Chanchaga Orthopaedic Workshop

Binta, a woman severely disabled by leprosy, who is receiving help from Chanchaga Orthopaedic Workshop  in Nigeria.
Binta, a woman severely disabled by leprosy, who is receiving help from Chanchaga Orthopaedic Workshop in Nigeria.

Steve Harknett, Programmes Officer for Africa, writes about his trip to Nigeria at the end of 2013.

‘Physical rehabilitation’: rather a dry-sounding, medical term, but one which conceals the wonderful service that is really is. Rehabilitation is actually restoration – restoring basic abilities to people who have lost them through leprosy or other disability. It’s restoration of their God-given dignity and their ability to do all the things in life that most of us take for granted.

This became very apparent to me during my recent visit to the Chanchaga Orthopaedic Workshop in Nigeria, which we have been supporting for the last year. Chanchaga is one of the few functioning rehabilitation workshops in the country, providing orthopaedic and mobility aids, including prosthetic limbs, orthotics, adapted shoes, crutches and wheelchairs, to people affected by leprosy.

These services are expensive and there’s need for people affected by leprosy, who are often among the poorest of the poor, to be helped to receive these services. We work with TLM Nigeria to ensure that such services are delivered to people affected by leprosy in eight states of the country.

I met several of the workshop’s beneficiaries during my visit. One woman, Binta, was at the nearby leprosy hospital getting treatment for ulcers on her right leg. Ulcers had already led to her left leg being amputated, and now her right leg also needed amputating. Binta is unable to walk at all, and can only move around by dragging herself around on the ground, getting dirty and increasing the risk of infections in the process. Everyday tasks such as going to the toilet are a tremendous ordeal for her. It’s hard to imagine a more undignified way of living.

Binta and her husband Hassan, who also has leprosy and walks with crutches, have four young children, only one of whom is in school. Binta is unable to do all the things a mother would normally do for her children, which forces the children to do domestic work and miss school as a result. Having such a severely disabled mother brings shame upon the children, and other children in the village call them ‘the leprosy children’.

Binta asked for financial assistance for the amputation operation, which is far too expensive for the family to afford. Following the operation, the Orthopaedic Workshop will give her a wheelchair. By restoring her ability to move around off the ground, the wheelchair will help keep Binta clean and avoid further health complications, and enable her to do more domestic work herself, taking some workload off her children. This will enable her to hold her head high in her community.

There are so few orthopaedic workshops in Nigeria and the reputation of Chanchaga has spread, so that other disabled people, not just those affected by leprosy, have also started coming. One such person is Yousif, a young man whose leg was amputated following a football accident. Yes, that’s right – he lost his leg through playing football. He broke his leg, and rather than seeking help from professional medical services he sought treatment from a traditional healer. The healer’s negligence caused the leg to go septic and it needed amputation to save Yousif’s life.

Yousif, whose life has been transformed by an artificial leg.
Yousif, whose life has been transformed by an artificial leg.

This young man, so proud of his physical ability and sporting achievements, has had his sporting career needlessly cut short. Everything is difficult to do when you’re an amputee, Yousif told me, plus there’s the stigma of looking different. But now with his artificial limb Yousif looks and walks like any other young man. “You would never know he had this accident,” his friend told me proudly. His pride and dignity now restored, he can now start hoping for the future again – completing his studies and marriage are on the horizon.

Nigeria is a country from where we hear so much bad news – much of the north of the country is under a state of emergency, leading to many deaths and a tragic breakdown of relations between the country’s Christian and Muslim communities, so we must pray for peace and reconciliation in this troubled nation. But we must also give thanks that The Leprosy Mission is providing a valuable service of restoration to people like Binta and Yousif, restoring their ability to walk and to move, their dignity as human beings in God’s image, and their hope for a better life in the future.

Celebrating our supporters and staff alike

We’ve got some great supporters and staff who are doing some amazing events to help people who are affected by the neglected tropical disease that is leprosy.
Here are just a few of them:
• In the North East, staff and supporters have decided upon a novel way to raise funds for The Leprosy Mission’s Kothara hospital.  They’re riding the Tyne Zipper at a speed of approx 30mph! You can sponsor them or join in, or both.  Just contact John and he’ll pass on all the details.  You’ll have to be quick though because there are only 14 places left!
• In the South West Natalie’s taking on a huge challenge of walking the coastal path during May and June.  That’s 630 miles from Minehead to Poole.  During the walk she will climb the equivalent of nearly four times the height of Everest!  Will you help Natalie to change the world for 1000 people affected by leprosy? She would love to see you along the way. Just visit her page to find out where she’ll be and when.  If you’re not up to the challenge of walking a section with her, you can always show your support through sponsorship.  It’s quick, easy and secure to donate through JustGiving online.

• Another great event is Martin’s Mega-Run.  Martin’s from the London area and he is running the entire length of the Grand Union Canal.  That’s 147 miles from Birmingham to London to raise funds for our work in Nigeria.  Again, visit his page on our website and find out the details.  He would love to have your support

• Then, there’s John King – on 17 April he is kayaking along the Thames. It’s called the London Kayakathon and it is 26 miles!  100 sea kayakers will paddle up the Thames and John chose to support The Leprosy Mission after reading one of our newsletters.  Big thanks John.  You can find out from the Kayakathon website and keep an eye out for info on our website-coming soon.

These are just a few of the amazing things happening this year.  Visit our area events pages for info on other events too, including lots of Walks of Hope.  There’s so much going on-something for everyone.

Celebrating our volunteers

IN THE UK
FIONA, one of our volunteers’ lives in North Devon with her family.  They run a small holding and keep cattle, pigs, goats and poultry.  Fiona explains why she volunteers for The Leprosy Mission:
‘I’ve been a supporter for several years, regularly buying items from TLM Trading Limited.  Last year I saw a request for Prayer Leaders and as our chapel holds regular prayer meetings each month, we decided as a group to support The Leprosy Mission though prayer.  I agreed to act as a co-ordinator, so I receive regular updates on items to be included in our prayers, information that can be distributed to the other members, and lead Leprosy Mission prayers in our prayer group meeting.  I have found the role a very rewarding one knowing that we are praying for others on a regular basis.’

JANICE, another volunteer, promised herself that when she retired and had more time she would do some voluntary work, but definitely not in an office as she had spent most of her working life in one!
‘On moving to the Peterborough area I heard of The Leprosy Mission and contacted them.  I realised that what I had to offer was in fact my admin experience.  I now work one day a week in the office among the friendly and helpful staff.  Working in a Christian environment is a wonderful experience and I enjoy working in an office much more than before.  Each week is completely different.  I would say to anyone thinking of volunteering, take the plunge and use your talents.’

IN NIGERIA

It’s great to know that volunteers from all parts of the globe do whatever they can to help people affected by leprosy.
Our Volunteer Co-ordinator in Nigeria tells us that volunteers help to make contact with churches, enabling us to visit and raise awareness about leprosy. They also speak in churches on behalf of the Mission, the same as volunteer speakers in England & Wales. Also in Nigeria, volunteers meet twice a month to pray for the Mission and for people with leprosy. In Niger State they visit all four leprosy settlements at Bank Holidays and other special occasions to pray with patients and encourage them.

Whatever you do, thank you for the part you play.  Find out more about other vital volunteer roles in England & Wales.