Vision Trip – John’s Vision of Bangladesh and Nepal

Earlier this year 3 of our volunteers, Alison McDonald, Rosalind Smith and John Twynam-Perkins, joined Linda Todd, our CEO, on a trip to Bangladesh and Nepal. They were going to visit a number of projects supported by The Leprosy Mission Scotland.

They have each written about their experiences, excerpts from which appear in the latest edition of our magazine Dochas. Over the coming weeks I will share their experiences in full so that you can get a bigger picture of all that they saw and the people they met.

Last, but by no means least, John Twynam-Perkins

When the mist clears and the peaks begin to emerge clear and sharp, spiking a cloudless blue sky it is hard not to feel utterly awe struck and very, very tiny. And your eyes just can’t stop looking as you try and absorb the seemingly endless stretch and stark beauty of the Himalayan high peaks. It was a joy and wonder to see them and a cause to praise the creator who fashioned them. A memorable day in our recent 15-day Vision Tour of Bangladesh and Nepal.

But as unforgettable as the mountains undoubtedly are, seeing them was only one of many memorable events we experienced.

Down on the Terai of Nepal we met a group of women whose energy and enthusiasm in the face of some huge challenges was heart-warming and humbling. These were the women of the Calvary Agricultural Co-operative in Shreepur; a village accessed by an untarred road that tested the build quality of our 4×4, the skills of the driver and the remarkable resilience of the human body.

The women, and a handful of men, form one of the self-help groups organised and supported by The Leprosy Mission Nepal. These are groups made up of people affected by leprosy, family members of leprosy affected people, people with disability and those on the margins of society.

The purpose of the groups is to help group members become economically active, provide mutual support, offer a forum for health and basic education, become a springboard for community action and to help members combat stigma and ignorance in the wider community.

The group of women we met were articulate, although few had had any formal education, vibrant and vocal.

And this is in the face of severe challenges.

As a marginalised community they have been given land by the government but no papers to prove their ownership.

Almost all their husbands work abroad, in the Gulf States or Malaysia and are away for 3 years at a time.

All their homes suffered damage in the 2015 earthquakes but not sufficient to trigger government support to repair or rebuild.

Yet these women were determined to make the best of their circumstances. Using loans available through the self-help group initiative they had managed to establish small businesses that brought in income allowing them to meet every day needs, repay their loan and most importantly to ensure they could afford to send their children to school.

In the all too brief time we spent with them we saw a poultry business, a tea shop, a buffalo milk business and a clothing shop.

The establishing and developing of these businesses would have been impossible without the self-help group as due to their low status in society none of the women would have been eligible for a loan through the usual channels.

It was a joy to be with them, to share a specially prepared local delicacy but most importantly to see how TLM Nepal is fulfilling our shared vision of Leprosy Defeated, Lives Transformed.

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23rd Apr 2016

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Opinions are the authors own and not necessarily those of The Leprosy Mission Scotland.