We often talk about the work we’re doing and let you know how we’re making a difference to people’s lives, but none of this would be possible with our community champions. They are our unsung health heroes who venture each day into new communities looking for new cases of neglected to diseases, educating people and teaching methods that can improve lives. Without their dedication to the work we do, we wouldn’t be able to reach so many people.

The community champions are a mix of both men and women who usually have experienced a neglected disease themselves. It’s that knowledge of the shame and fear that people feel when affected by a disease, that have driven these individuals to work for us.

Meet Kumari

Kumari has been a community champion since April 2016. She has lymphatic filariasis (LF) herself and used to visit our Nayagarh centre in Odisha to learn about self-care. There she’d work with the doctors to bathe her leg to keep the skin supple and the swelling down. This had such an impact on her the size of her swollen limb that Kumari decided to help others experiencing the same.

“I wanted to help my village people and to learn more information to protect myself and community members.”

Kumari says that there are around 25 people in her village affected by LF.  Some of these cases she has discovered herself; she recognised the symptoms and was able to refer them to us for further help. Many people hide their symptoms away too ashamed to come forward but having a friendly face knowledgeable in such symptoms is helping more people to come forward.

“In severe cases of maggots and ulcers there is stigma and people don’t want to socialise with them.”

This is also something Kumari can sympathise with. She knows all too well the embarrassment a person can feel at being a little different. Luckily, she’s been able to overcome the shame with the help of our staff and is using that empowerment to help others.

How she helps

Most days she visits the homes of those affected by LF to show them how to talk to them and to perform the self-care methods, but this isn’t always met with an open mind.

“I explain the self-care steps to people in my village and I visit individual houses but people don’t have faith in the self-care.”

This is when Kumari’s own experience helps her to help others. When talking about the swelling Kumari says ‘people say they don’t believe it is possible so I explain my experience.’

Aside from teaching self-care, Kumari also tells people about the other services we provide such as our protective shoes. They are free, custom-made and help people continue to go about their daily lives pain free. 

“I like everything from self-care to promoting footwear and convincing people.”

Kumari is just one of hundreds of community champions we have offering their services in India, Bangladesh and Mozambique. They help us to reach the more remote and rural areas ensuring that we don’t leave anyone behind in our quest to alleviate some of the impact of neglected diseases.

For Kumari, this is rewarding work.

“I want to see all the villagers doing self-care, getting relief and saying that is because I have helped.”

It only takes £4 to train a community volunteer on how to detect leprosy and tuberculosis.

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