Photo credit: Sasja van Vechgel
Christina, now 19 was only ten when she was diagnosed with leprosy. She noticed something was wrong when she was helping her mother cook.
"I touched the fire with my hands, but didn’t feel anything. I found that odd. Quite soon after that my fingers and toes started to deform. I was very worried; we had to have it looked at by a doctor. Together with my mother I walked the long way to the hospital."
When the doctor told Christina she had leprosy, she bravely accepted her fate.
"I walked home with a medication strip in my hand. I was relieved that there was a cure and every day I faithfully took my pill."
At first it was difficult to get my medication. Every month I had to walk for half a day to get my repeat prescription from the hospital. I dreaded those days, because my damaged feet make walking difficult.
Then however fellow-villager Eduardo (49) started as the local leprosy volunteer. The doctor would give him medication for three months and he managed the stock.
Every time I gave him my empty medication strip, he’d give me a full one. I no longer had to walk all those miles to the hospital, which saved a lot of time and energy. He was a godsend.
"After the treatment I felt a lot better, but sores and ulcers were still giving me a lot of grief. Eduardo asked whether I wanted to join the local self-care group. He is its leader. I immediately said yes.
Our group is called “We’re waiting for you” and we meet on the 14th of every month. I have learned how to best look after my ulcers, and which exercises I should do to keep the strength in my hands.
During these meetings we help each other to follow instructions as closely as possible.
It makes me feel good to be part of this group.
I am also very grateful for the sturdy sandals I got. They protect my feet and toes, so that I don’t sustain new injuries as easily. My family would never have been able to buy me these sandals. Too expensive. We simply don’t have the money.
"I help my parents on our plot. We grow beans, cassava and maize. The yield is mainly for private use, but during harvest we have so many beans that we can sell them at the market. That provides a little income. I would like to go back to school. I quit in year five, maths is my favourite subject."
Help others like Christina by supporting the work of local leprosy healthcare volunteers, and self-care groups