Imagine celebrating your 50th birthday, hiding the signs of a disease because it is surrounded by prejudice and you know that people will move away from you and leave you isolated
Shockingly, this is what happens to many of the children, women and men who are affected by leprosy. Communities are uneducated about the disease therefore people are shunned from their homes and forced to live in isolation in a leprosy colony.
Kulamani, now aged 70, contracted leprosy when he was 50 years old and living in Odisha state, India. He noticed a pale patch on his arm: a classic sign of leprosy. Soon, he lost all feeling in both of his feet and developed an ulcer on his right foot. He knew that he could not hope for sympathy or help from his neighbours. He was not aware that a cure for leprosy existed.
Villagers and relatives shunned him; the barber and “washerman” would not visit his house. People in the village said “You must leave, or your daughter will not marry”.
Twenty years ago, Kulamani decided to leave home early one morning and travel by bus to a leprosy colony. He was very unhappy leaving his wife and children, then aged seven and ten. At first, the colony residents wouldn’t let him in as he had not received treatment and he sheltered on the verandah for one month. Eventually, one of the residents took him to the Lepra clinic where he received the multi-drug treatment to cure the disease.
“I have never been back home. I heard my daughter was married but I was not invited to the ceremony. I love my children still but if I visit them, the village will turn against them. Until I die, I will live in this colony. My family has never visited me here.”
The colony’s residents beg for food in the mornings, dividing it amongst them. Kulamani describes it as a “pitiful life”, without friends. He enjoys reading, but his eyes are now very poor so he finds it increasingly difficult
We aim to educate communities like Kulamani's to help stop the discrimination of those people affected by leprosy. We can't do this without your help. As little as £13 a month could help run health education campaigns in six schools each year.