A guest blog from our Director of Development Isabel Cross, who recently returned to Bangladesh to visit some of our projects.

The sights, colours and smells of Asia are enticing, but I had temporarily forgotten the seeming chaos, the construction, rubbish and of course the poverty.​

We set out early for Siranjganj which was a four hour drive from Dhaka. I was glad that if necessary I could avert my eyes from the road as it seemed like one near miss followed another - I am sure Rafiq our driver had complete control, but there was no accounting for the others on the road. The traffic jams and open roads are equally as nerve-wracking!

Once we arrived in Siranjganj , we met up with our Lepra staff we went to the local government Community Health Clinic and immediately met people affected by leprosy who were receiving ulcer care. At this clinic, we provide technical assistance and refer suspected cases from the field. Learning the district structures and how we deploy our staff to strengthen the health systems and the way we support government infrastructure is really revealing. What is clear in this collaboration is that detecting leprosy is incredibly important and community field work is vital to achieve the goal.

We travelled on through the countryside and the agricultural economy was all around us, low lying, flood prone but at this time of year lush and green. Here and there people tend their fields, goats and even carry baskets of live ducks on their heads!

We then arrived in Rajshahi village. I was humbled by the village greeting and traditional garlands of flowers for our necks. Yasmina, our Lepra health and community assistant introduced us to a self-help group. This group has been established for three years, and members have experienced leprosy and disability and several of them have received training in running the group.

One of the members Umilla, keeps ducks which provide a source of food for her family. She markets eggs and the birds - buying chicks at 32 and selling at 300 taka - we all nod approval as she told us she makes 3,000 taka a month (about £27). Other members tell us about how they provide for their own families by goat rearing, land leasing and farming.

The confidence of the group, their knowledge of leprosy and health messages comes through. Several people have as much pride telling us that they have identified others with signs of leprosy and encouraged them into treatment, as they do about their own achievements.

I came away with a clear sense that these are the people that will help us make leprosy a disease of no consequence. We can enable them to be more self-sufficient but they will help find and normalise the disease in their communities. We can offer expertise and through collaborating with the responsible health service we can ensure support and correct treatment will be there in future.