Medical aid and leprosy projects in India 

The leprosy colonies of Sankat Mocan and Bhadhoi  

Sankat Mocan is a leprosy colony in Varanasi (Benares) and was established thirty years ago. It is a walled compound of about thirty single-room buildings that often house families with up to ten members.

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The people in the colony live in great poverty. Many are forced to beg on the streets of Varanasi, while family members who are not yet visibly scared by the diseases work as rubbish collectors and separators or rickshaw drivers. Some have found jobs as paper-boys and unskilled labourers.

Despite their dire circumstances, the people of Sankat Mocan live with quiet dignity, which is immediately palpable to any visitor to the spotlessly clean colony. They however lack any prospect for a better future, as they lack education and skills and are often physically weak.

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The colony of Bhadhoi is located about 45 kilometres outside of Varanasi. It is home to about 100 to 150 people who live in the middle of nowhere in the dusty countryside. According to their own account, they do not receive any outside assistance whatsoever. Most of the homes are clay huts built by the families themselves. The people are very poor. They have no access to medical or social services and their children cannot go to school. In short, the people of Bhadhoi exist without any prospect of a better future.

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Over the past few years, Bhadhoi has become a regional centre of carpet production with many small factories operating in the town. Dye containers, wool for weaving and finished carpets can be seen at every street corner. We consider it vital that the children of Bhadhoi are given a chance to go to school, as they are otherwise likely to vanish into carpet factories which are simply sweatshops.

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Our work in the colonies

Our medical team regularly visits the two colonies of Sankat Mocan and Bhadhoi where we offer medical assistance to the people suffering from leprosy and their families. In Sankat Mocan, we have now a proper treatment room where we can also store medication. We plan to build a similar facility at the Bhadhoi colony. The regular medical care has already made a huge difference to the people in the leper colonies, as their general health has greatly improved.

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With the extension of our children's home in 2007, we saw an opportunity to offer more children and grandchildren of our former leprosy patients in Sankat Mocan and Bhadhoi a place in our community with proper education and care. In the meantime, 25 girls and 23 boys have moved in. They were delighted with the great new chance they were offered. We want to ensure that the children of our patients are given the tools they need to escape poverty. First of all, this is obviously done through education. To fight leprosy, it is vital that all members of the families affected by this disease are empowered through education so that they can be productive members of society. The children are the future, and by educating them, some might one day work as social workers, doctors or journalists. In this way, the next generation can significantly improve the lot of people affected by leprosy, remove the stigma of sufferers and enable them to a life of dignity.

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Since 2010, we have been intensifying our aid to the colony of Bhadhoi. With our assistance, the community has become more assertive, and families and children get the help they need. Umesh, who has been working for the previous two years in our children's rights programme in the slums of Varanasi, now looks full-time after the community affected by leprosy. For the children of the colony, we have put an informal school system in place.

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At the regular community meetings, the participants identify their most pressing problems and works towards solutions. Where necessary, people are referred to state agencies and members of the colony can avail of our assistance when dealing with the authorities.

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