A couple from Slinfold have shared their experiences of seeing a girl walk for the first time in years while they were meeting leprosy patients in Nepal.
Leprosy Mission supporters Ian and Pauline Jepps, of Park Street, spent two weeks with the charity at its Anandaban Hospital last month.
They saw firsthand the impact of this chronic infection has when it goes untreated.
There has been a stigma attached to leprosy since Biblical times. Despite it having a cure since 1982, there are still those misconceptions in eastern countries today.
Ian said: “Nobody cares about them until they go to hospital. For a western person to be interested in their situation is something quite unique to them.”
For Barbatti, her despair turned into hope.
She first contracted leprosy as a child, but she didn’t come to the Mission hospital until she was 23.
Ian said: “She heard on the radio of a clinic a bus ride away. By this time she couldn’t walk because the disease had just got hold of her.
“She had no toes, no fingers, so she convinced somebody to carry her to the clinic and they referred her straight to the Anandaban Hospital.
“When we spoke to her she was saying, ‘I’m going home next week and when I get home, I’m going to start a business. It’s going to be knitting and jewellery’. She went to move to the Indian border.
“It’s hope for a future. We were incredibly privileged to see her walking for the first time in six years.”
The charity also works to educate people in the village.
Ian said: “There were eight leprosy sufferers who had been sent home. When the charity followed them up, they found they were excluded from any village activities. They were not allowed to use the village toilets and it was out of pure ignorance.
“They started telling them it wasn’t a punishment from the gods, for example.
“The community’s attitude has now completely turned around and the eight people are totally integrated into the community.”
Ian and Pauline are now volunteer speakers for the charity.
Anyone who would like to hear them speak can contact them via Brighton Road Baptist Church on 01403 211150.