Street food stall, Bangladesh

Vision Trip – Alison’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 Dòchas. 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.

First up, Alison McDonald

“People are people the world over”.  This phrase came to my mind often during our recent trip to Bangladesh and Nepal where we visited hospitals, clinics and many self-help groups.  We met a wide range of Leprosy affected people, some whose bodies bore the marks of leprosy which had not been treated in time and others who had been treated timeously and no one would ever realise that they have been affected by leprosy.  Wherever we went men, women and children all had the same hopes and dreams as people here in the UK and because of the work and impact of the Leprosy Mission they could dare to dream.

As a retired physiotherapist I was particularly interested in the excellent surgical work being done in Anandaban Hospital in Nepal by Dr Indra Napit and his team.  Following the earthquake last year they opened their doors to the injured and successfully treated hundreds of fractures and did so without having to perform one amputation.  In those conditions that was truly amazing.    Reconstructive surgery has certainly progressed from my day and Dr Napit has developed a technique to repair full claw hands in one single operation rather than in two stages as previously done.  This reduces surgical costs and patients spend less time away from families and work.

Self-help groups give the marginalized a voice and communities are changing as a result of these groups.  The Leprosy Mission in Bangladesh & Nepal give initial seed money to groups.  Sometimes individuals take loans to start up small businesses, in other situations the money is used to improve conditions within the community.    Husbands who were initially reluctant to allow their wives to attend the group soon realize the benefits of women having their own little businesses and being able to contribute to the family income.  Loans are always repaid and these groups are generating income in many different ways.  Businesses ranged from raising, small goats and calves then selling them when grown, craft work, making mosquito nets for babies, running small shops, growing crops, running tea stalls and tailoring to name but a few.   During meetings groups discuss things such as leprosy care, childcare, advocacy and some groups want to start adult literacy classes.  Many groups are now self-sustaining and the mission is able to withdraw.

My trip also reminded me of the difficult working conditions for staff.  They travel long distances over chaotic and dangerous roads.  They also work in communities which are like rabbit warrens, easy to enter but would be incredibly difficult to exit if trouble arose and in the political instability of Bangladesh that must be considered.  TLM staff deserve our admiration and they need our prayers.

TLMS sponsor many children and fund their education.  One of the highlights of my visit was the privilege of sitting in a room listening to children who have been born and raised in shacks by the side of a railway line.  They spoke confidently to a group of adults telling us that they want to be a doctor, an engineer and another wanted to work in a bank.  Mothers and children are the same the world over and mothers and children in Bangladesh and Nepal have the same hopes and dreams that we have here in the west and because of the impact and work of the Leprosy Mission their hopes and dreams can become a reality.

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1st Apr 2016

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