Once someone develops a chronic condition (such as a loss of sensation) because of leprosy, they need to take regular care in all activities of daily living and work. Because this is such an extensive and life-long undertaking, it’s better for people affected by leprosy to take responsibility of their condition. This is why you support the implementation of Self Care and Self Help Groups in Timor Leste, Nepal, Nigeria and India. They’re small communities of people affected by leprosy who care, support and advocate for each other.
Self Care Groups
In a Self Care Group, individual participants are accountable in managing their own condition. But they’re also supported and accountable to the rest of the participants. The group is taught a daily routine of inspecting their bodies for signs of injury or infection, treatments for different injuries, exercises to prevent joint stiffness, and instructions in soaking and oiling their skin to prevent dryness.
Every time someone affected by leprosy presents to a medical clinic with an ulcer, a health worker has to dress it. That also requires the clinic to use their wound healing materials, like antiseptic, blades for trimming, Vaseline and bandages. Self Care Groups greatly reduce this dependency. That’s good on a number of accounts. It deals with wounds early so there’s ultimately less damage. It empowers people to act in their best interests (even though stigma tries to deny them). And it means that hospitals can direct resources to other needs. It also means that people affected by leprosy are able to access support without the expenses and inconvenience of travelling to a hospital. This is especially important for people who live in remote villages.
Participants of Self Care Groups are also shown how to wrap material around the handles of tools to protect their hands, or to use a pipe to blow on embers so they don’t get too close to the fire. Wearing shoes, sunglasses and gloves can also protect them. You give items like these when you buy Gifts of Love.
It’s helpful to have people who experience living with their own disabilities to explain self-care activities to other people affected by leprosy. Drawing upon their own experiences they can explain the benefits of regular self-care (or the risks of neglecting it). This way the Self Care Group can be mostly independently and find its own ways to support each other.
Over eight months ago, Sabitri joined a Self Care Group like this. The group taught her how to care for her numb limbs and wounds. With this instruction, Sabitri can prevent any further deformity and disability.
Self Help Groups
Self Care Groups are often the basis of Self Help Groups. But they serve a slightly different purpose. They are a way of assisting people affected by leprosy to integrate back into their communities and secure a livelihood.
Working together in a Self Help Group can bring about sustainable responses to the problems that they face, in a way that respects the different perspectives, experiences and needs of its members.
In communities affected by leprosy and disability, The Leprosy Mission bring together interested people to develop ways they can improve their situation. Working together in a Self Help Group can bring about sustainable responses to the problems that they face, in a way that respects the different perspectives, experiences and needs of its members.
Your gifts provide some financial support so that micro-loans can be made to members of Self Help Groups. Normally these loans either establish a small business, or provide some capital to modestly expand a business. For example, a participant might establish a vegetable garden, and then sell off the excess produce for additional income. Or they might establish a small shop and use the money to stock it with products. Lending members pay back this money and then the money is ‘recycled’ to another member of the Self Help Group.
Sabitri has indicated that she would like to raise and sell goats or chickens. It’s something that she could do—even with her disabilities. The RECLAIM Self Help Group could give a grant to do this. It will take time before Sabitri and her daughter Laxmi get back on their feet. But there is hope now that she is connected to the RECLAIM project that you make possible. Your prayers and gifts support so many people like Sabitiri and Laxmi. Thank you.