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Your Support Turned His Life Around

Your gifts, actions and prayers have a massive impact every day in the lives of people affected by leprosy around the world, people like João (John) from Angola. Every day you take the world a small step closer to the day when there is zero leprosy.

João and I are the same age. He has 4 kids where I only have 1. He is a good dad. Even though he is divorced from his wife he is determined to play an active role in raising and providing for his children.

He studied plumbing at a Christian school in Angola and was able to get a great job with one of the big construction companies. The skyline of Luanda the capital is peppered with cranes rebuilding and modernising the city after 27 years of civil war. Much of the construction is being paid for with Chinese investment using Chinese labourers brought over specially. To be working as an Angolan for an Angolan company on prestigious projects is a real honour and something to be very proud of.

As he approached his late 30s João noticed that the skin on his arms, and later his face, was becoming discoloured. With a hint of regret he says “I didn’t really do anything about it back then. I didn’t know what it was but it wasn’t causing any problems, I didn’t really pay it much attention”.

A good few months later, it wasn’t going away and if anything it was getting worse. He decided he should probably get it checked out.

“It cost me nearly all my savings visiting 2 different private clinics. Nobody goes to the government clinic if they can possibly help it.”

The clinics ran all sorts of tests but they had no answers to what was wrong. If expensive modern medicine couldn’t help, then maybe the old ways could do better. He went to find someone who knew traditional medicine.

“Oh man! I can tell you, they really tried everything over there, you cannot imagine.”

Despite all these efforts he was still getting worse not better. His face came up in swollen nodules, and this was when things took a real turn for the worse at work as well.

Work on a big site is very much a team effort but now he found that nobody would work close to him. Rather than passing him tools they would throw them. It’s one thing if it’s a screwdriver or small spanner, but big wrenches are a different matter altogether.

One day the boss called him into the office. “There’s nothing wrong with your work but the way your face looks is really causing problems for the other guys so I’m afraid I’ll have to let you go”.

João says that he found himself “without a job and without hope to find a treatment for my skin. But you know what? We, African people we never lose faith, we keep our smile and go ahead, God will provide us the solution”.

A few months later he was in a taxi travelling home from visiting his children at his ex-wife’s house. In Angola it’s normal to share a taxi with a stranger who’s going in roughly the same way.

On the other side of this taxi was a woman. As they drove João realised she was staring at him.

“It was really annoying. In my mind I was thinking, she is probably disgusted by my skin and my scarfs. I thought she was going to get the driver to stop and throw me out! Suddenly, she looked in my eye and told me: “my friend I think at the health centre in Luanda they might be able to help you. I think they are treating people with your same type of problems””.

What did he have to lose? Despite everything he had always heard about government clinics, the very next day he went straight there.

“Exactly 4 years after these problems started I met Dr Jean-Pierre and Dr Moises from SOLE-Angola. They knew immediately what was wrong with me and gave me the right medicine – for FREE!

Back out in the packed waiting room there was even entertainment!.

“We roared with laughter at the play from ARPAL that told us about some of the ridiculous things that people believe about this leprosy that I now know I have – I don’t have to be scared or ashamed”

After the play volunteers from ARPAL – the Association for the Reintegration of People Affected by Leprosy – went round the room talking to people about their fears and directing them to different sources of help to overcome the problems caused by leprosy.

“Since I started the treatment, I feel much better and all my skin signs are disappearing very quickly. I want to find a new job, working for my four kids and provide them a good education.

“The disease will be soon gone, the man will remain. I trusted God and he sent his messenger on a taxi to tell me what to do!

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24th Aug 2018

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