Imagine if you were living on less than what 80p a day can buy in the UK and then heard the diagnosis of leprosy when you visited a doctor, worried about loss of feeling in your arm or feet or patches on your skin.
That’s what happened to Kalpana, living in India and married at the age of 17 to an army officer who was posted at a border station. On one of his six-monthly visits home, he noticed darker patches on Kalpana’s body and realised that she had leprosy. He was angry that her family had kept this from him at the time of their wedding because of the significant prejudice surrounding the disease. He started to beat her; the violence continued for five years. When he broke Kalpana’s leg, she went to the hospital but returned home to find her belongings thrown out of the house. Their four-year old daughter was also banished from the home.
Lepra was the “helping hand” in Kalpana’s crisis. She received free treatment and has completed the six-month course of multi-drug therapy which has cured her of leprosy. The patches have disappeared and she looks healthy once again. Her husband, however, refused to take her back. We are helping her to file for divorce and get the financial support she needs and deserves.
So how does this link with support for a career or setting up a business? With a loan of 30,000 INR (£294) Kalpana has started a small grocery shop next to her parents’ home. She earns about £2.50 to £3 a day and is proud to contribute to her parents’ household instead of feeling like a burden to them. Her daughter, now seven years old, attends a local primary school and is thriving. Soon, we will be employing Kalpana as a community ambassador (lokdoot).
There are so many more women, children and men who need our support. Every two minutes, one more person is diagnosed with leprosy. If we can achieve early detection for everyone, permanent disability from leprosy will be assigned to history. Just £25 can detect, diagnose and treat leprosy, transforming the life of one person devastated by this disease and giving them a chance for a new beginning.
It was three years since we last saw Kalpana and we are pleased to report that her business has grown. Her daughter is still attending school and plans to become a police officer when she grows up.