Who we are News A Lepra love story In the face of adversity true love can be found. This is the story of Ghasiram and Lochhi Khilla, a couple from the state of Odisha in India. Back in 1993 Ghasiram was living in Podapadar, a small town in the Koraput district. He was 17 years old when he was diagnosed with leprosy and had begun to feel the effects of the nerve damage. Some 8 hours away, on the other side of the state in the Malkangiri district, Lochhi was experiencing similar symptoms. After being treated for leprosy, she was sent to Lepra’s Muniguda Reconstruction Centre where she could have some of the lasting effects of leprosy treated. Miles away from home Lochhi, only in her teens, knew nobody. It was during this time that she met Ghasiram who had also been sent to the centre. They both understood what it was like to be a young person living with leprosy. They had endured the physical effects as well as social stigma. This was more so for Lochhi because, as a woman, often those who have had leprosy are left unable to marry. Luckily, Lochhi and Ghasiram were able to find comfort in one another and during their pre- and post-op treatment they fell in love. In 1995, when the time came for them to leave the centre, Lochhi and Ghasiram told our staff that they planned to marry. In the year 2000 they finally did so. Sixteen years later the couple have had to overcome a lot more than leprosy. Back in Ghasiram’s village of Podapadar, after marrying, together they faced the social stigma and were shunned by society. Although they no longer had leprosy, the misconceptions people have about the disease meant they were still treated as if they were contagious or even cursed. To try and rebuild their lives, Ghasarim and Lochhi set up a small business using a start-up grant from our Koralep Project. While turning out to be a financial blessing, the business helped them in many more ways... It grew very quickly and even enabled the couple to eventually buy a rice and flour mill. As their business grew over the years, so did their social standing. As they became prominent business figures in the community, slowly the stigma surrounding them lessened. “Lepra has given a new life to us, given us workable hands and feet. With the help from Lepra, we could marry and now we are in the society with manageable financial status. Thanks to Lepra as they made us stand in the society without stigma. We are leading a happy family life with good understanding amongst us.” The couple continue to live in Podapadar happy, healthy and running their successful business. A Lepra love story.