A leprosy-affected woman’s shattered life is restored.
While Seetha sits at her sewing machine, twisting folds of coloured fabric beneath the needle, neighbours wander in and settle themselves on one of the white plastic chairs, ready for a chat or a cup of tea.
She is satisfied with her work, her home and her two teenage sons – from making dresses she earns enough to support her small family. However, there was a point in Seetha’s life when the future was uncertain, almost something to be feared. Now, thanks to The Leprosy Mission in India, she has been empowered to overcome her past.
At 23 Seetha was happily married, she had two small children and a husband who worked in the fields near their home earning enough money to provide for his family; they were content and happy.
Then, one afternoon, she noticed a white patch on her arm which had no feeling in it. Not knowing what was wrong, she went to TLM’s hospital in Salur, the closest medical centre to their village. There she was diagnosed with leprosy and given a course of Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT). Thankfully, because the leprosy was diagnosed early enough she hadn’t lost any sensation in her hands or feet.
However, when Seetha told her husband she had leprosy, he was angry: he told Seetha to leave their house and to take the children with her.
Stunned by his reaction, Seetha returned to her mother’s home in Salur and has not seen her husband since.
When Seetha went back to the hospital to pick up another two-month course of MDT, she told the staff what had happened. Concerned for her, they suggested she learn a trade that would give her some independence and that TLM could help with skills training at TLM’s Vocational Training Centre in Vizianagaram (about 50km away). So she agreed.
When she finished the embroidery and tailoring courses, TLM gave her a loan of two machines – one for general sewing, the other for embroidery. Now she is earning 3,000 rupees a month, she has been able to pay off the loans, and she is earning enough to support her family.
Now, Seetha is passing on what she’s learnt to others. Each week, 10 girls aged between 15 and 20 come to Seetha’s house to learn to sew. “I hope that if they learn a skill they may be able to have some income and support their families,” explains Seetha.
Her dream is to build a shop where she can sew and sell her garments but also to employ some of the girls she has trained to provide them with a more secure future. She’d also like to sell some of her ready-made saris to the big stores.
She is saving up a deposit to buy one of the nearby high-street stalls. With typical confidence, she says, “By God’s grace I’ll do it.”
With Seetha, there is definitely no dwelling on the past. Thanks to TLM, she has a life she can be proud of.
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