People with leprosy are often chased out of their families and communities due to the fear and unawareness of individuals around them. They end up living with people who have the same disease in colonies away from normal people. They are not allowed to access public places or any common facilities. Even their disease-free children are neglected and avoided from society. People always look down on them with disgust and disrespect.
Leprosy is completely curable with modern medicine, but if it’s not treated properly, it can lead to permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. But most of the time, people either do not have access to affordable treatment or hide their disease due to their fear of being shunned. The social stigma and the poverty usually stop them from seeking medical attention. Also, people are unaware of the fact that the disease can no longer be spread if the affected person starts taking treatments.
Leprosy is known as poor man’s disease. Leprosy-affected people do not have any source of income as they are isolated from the outside world. They earn their living by begging around the streets and markets. Because of the disease, many lose their extremities due to repeated injuries, deformation and shortening of hands and toes or infection due to unnoticed wounds. A leprosy-affected person may also have weakness and poor eyesight. Eventually, they will become incapable of doing even their most basic things by themselves.
Believers Church started the 'Reaching Friends' project to show helpless and hopeless leprosy-affected individals love and compassion.
Sisters of Compassion visit their colonies and houses each day and help them to do the things which are unable for them to do themselves. They clean their wounds regularly, give them a daily bath, comb their hair, cut their nails, cook food for them, sweep their houses and wash their clothes. They are not only meeting their daily needs, but are also touching their lives with care and compassion.
The church has a leprosy hospital in Purulia, West Bengal to meet the medical needs of tens of thousands of leprosy-affected people in different leper colonies in that district. Here, we provide them free checkups, medicines and also clean and tie their wounds. Apart from this, the church also conducts health awareness programs, free medical camps and medicine distribution programs to improve their health.
The church cares for the needs of impoverished leprosy-affected people through social welfare programs. The church provides them with food, mosquito nets, blankets, clothes and hygiene items. Also, the church takes measurement and makes custom sandals for these lepers as their fingers and toes are often short or deformed because of their disease. These sandals help protect their feet from further damage.