When you have leprosy or a disability and live in poverty, your future job prospects are slim. In fact, you may lose your job because of the stigma of leprosy, or the disease may leave you unable to use your hands or walk properly. Not only that, but your children may also have trouble finishing school because your livelihood is gone and you cannot pay for books and uniforms.
Petronella’s first signs of leprosy were the patches on her skin. Like so many others, she could have tried to hide her condition. She could have ended up with deformities and disabilities, even needing amputations. As a mother of seven children, this would not just affect her own life but all her children.
I remember watching Samana’s story play across the big screens in my church and being moved. Not just at the sheer tragedy of her mother’s death because of a curable disease. But also at the hope in Samana and her family’s perseverance in the face of Samana herself developing leprosy. Samana’s story was one of the motivating factors in my decision to apply for a role at The Leprosy Mission Australia. I’ve now been in this role for a year and a photo of Samana and her father Shivaram sits on my desk, reminding me of the vision of The Leprosy Mission: Defeating Leprosy and Transforming Lives.
Imagine you’re a child who looks a little different from the other kids. Or sounds a little different. Or you make involuntary and unusual physical movements due to cerebral palsy. Maybe you have a congenital birth defect - you were born that way…
“If Jesus was here today, He would say to a person with leprosy, ‘I'm always there for you, and don't be afraid because there is hope and there is a future.’” – Maria Bast, Leprosy Mission supporter
For years, Nagammal lived alone in a rough animal shed. Because of her leprosy, her husband had left her. Her brother wanted little to do with her. Rejected and alone, she wondered where the gods were… had they abandoned her too?