OUR SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE AFFECTED BY LEPROSY AND THEIR FAMILIES
Back in the early days of Back to Life, we ran a street clinic in Benares three times a week with the support of volunteers. During these clinics, our patients had their wounds cleaned, treated, and bandaged. In addition, we accompanied leprosy patients to receive restoration surgery to treat deformations, prevent further disabilities, and preserve eyesight. In addition, we provided special shoes, visual and walking aids, physiotherapy, prostheses, and wheelchairs based on the specific need of each individual. To ensure the multi-drug therapy would actually work, we ensured patients would stick to their daily doses without defaulting from treatment. An important feature of the programme was raising awareness about leprosy amongst our patients and the general public. Through posters, flyers, and workshops we actively informed about the disease to counter misconceptions and judgement.
Importantly, our rehabilitation involved more than a purely medical approach – a variety of livelihood initiatives assisted patients to get back on their feet socially and economically. In informal workshops and seminars, they could practice different kinds of hand-craft and establish a saving routine to create a small financial cushion for emergencies or entrepreneurial activities. We provided micro-loans so they could invest into a small business. Some of our patients returned to their home villages and were able to reintegrate into their old lives. Others moved to leprosy colonies, where they started a new life amongst people who have had similar experiences.
The infection was gone, yet many problems remained
At the end of the MDT, our concern for our patients and their families did not stop. The years they had spent on the street and social decline with all its consequences had left an irreversible impact on this group of people. When the original group of patients was cured and rehabilitated, we stopped the street clinic activity in 2002 and started organising so-called mobile health camps instead. This way, we were able to continue caring for the people at the Dasaswamedh and Samne Ghat and the Bhadohi leprosy colony outside of the city.
Our team regularly looked after the former leprosy patients and street children and supported them with the provision of essential goods, such as tarpaulins during the monsoon, protection gear, dressing material, wound cream, vitamins, shoes, glasses, walking aids, and wheelchairs when needed. Medical care was ensured through regular health camps, especially during the monsoon season, which usually saw an increasing number of infections. During winter, we did not only support leprosy patients and street children, but also tried to reach as many other people in need as possible. Accordingly, we distributed blankets, scarves, hats, socks, and shoes. If there was an acute illness that needed treatment we facilitated additional medical support through the appropriate public and private health facilities. In some cases, our support also included modest financial assistance if there was no viable alternative.