Growing up in a leprosy colony, in a large family and without a father comes with a lot of challenges. Some of the kids used to tease Somita and call her a “leprosy child”. But that’s changed thanks to you.
“I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to you. Because of you I now feel inspiration and motivation to help other people. Because of the help I have received I want to help other people in my community as well. So thank you for giving me this inspiration!”
Somita has lived in the Kokhona leprosy colony her whole life. When her mother was 7 or 8 years old, health workers diagnosed her with leprosy. Her mother’s parents left her mother at the Kokhona leprosy colony and haven’t been in contact since. She got married and had a large family of three sons and four daughters. The youngest of whom is Somita. Her husband died six years after Somita was born. The family isn’t sure what happened. One day he just didn’t come home from work. A local hospital called and told them that he’d died there. The staff weren’t sure, but they thought he’d been hit by a bus. It’s hard enough for a mother to provide for a family of seven all by herself. It’s even harder to find safe, reliable work when you’ve lost fingers and toes to complications of leprosy like she has. This burden made her incredibly depressed—a sadly common co-morbid condition for people with leprosy.
Fortunately, she had a Christian friend and preacher and would go to his church. Somita says “she was greatly impressed by the message that she could come and receive rest. So she kept coming to church and she became a believer.” Somita’s mother is no longer depressed and her Christian faith is now encouraging others:
“Whenever I get down about my studies she tells me not to worry and to pray. I truly accepted God myself when I joined college. At first I was dreaming about becoming a doctor – but we weren’t able to afford to join the science faculty. So I became very depressed. But my friends and mother encouraged me to pray. At that time a verse came to me from the Bible: ‘whatever you ask for you will receive’. I think I truly became a believer at this time and I have trusted the Lord ever since.”
Somita still lives with her mother in the colony. But things are better and they’re happy. Her mother joined a Cooperative through The Leprosy Mission’s SER project. A grant helped her start poultry farming to help support her family. Somita is now obtaining a tertiary education in college through a scholarship you have helped provide. She has new friends that accept her. They see leprosy as a medical disease, not as a curse.
“…when I graduated high school I thought I would not be able to go to university,” says Somita, “but because of the SER scholarship program I have had the opportunity to study. So I am so thankful. Now I am studying social work so that I can help others—I have been inspired to help others because of the project. I grew up in a leprosy colony so from that experience I also want to help others. At first I wanted to study something like medicine or nursing but now I have been inspired to meet the social needs in communities.”
As a social worker, Somita wants to help people just like her mother. Those who are older and have little support. Those who have been abandoned by their families. Those who have severe impairments and have difficulty collecting water or cooking.
“I want to be an inspiration to other people who are children of people affected by leprosy. Many of these people feel that they can do nothing because they are the children of people affected by leprosy and they have grown up in poverty. I want to show them that they too can do something to help their community. I want to show that if we study and work hard we can support our parents as well. We need to show them that it is not their fault that they have leprosy.”
You can also take action on leprosy. Help a child obtain an education with a scholarship Gift of Love.