last week we had the wonderful opportunity to go to one of the leprosy colonies that rising star serves. we had been to one before on our first day here, but this time we got to help out a lot more and stay longer to interact with the people. it was an amazing experience, especially to see where the beautiful kids that we teach come from. we learned a lot of new information about leprosy and the incredible work that rising star does.
every two weeks doctor kumar visits each colony (there are about 12 on rotation) to check the patient's vitals, distribute medication and replace bandages. we got to help clean the feet of the leprosy affected and it was very humbling and just amazing - what a unique and unparalleled opportunity.
to be honest, i was worried before coming out here that these people would be hard to look at and that their deformities would be naturally repulsing, but really the absolute opposite was true. i felt so so endeared and drawn to these wonderful brothers and sisters and so excited about interacting with them in every way. it sounds so trite, but these people are so special and immediately looked so beautiful to us.
this man was the highlight of the trip to the colony. he had been blind for 20 years until doctor kumar insisted that the hospital admit him for cataract surgery. now he can see out of one eye and has beheld the faces of his children for the first time. well, bless his heart, our new friend literally cannot contain his joy. he is as bubbly as can be, giggling and smiling and interacting with us playfully. he rambled in tamil absolutely consistently the entire time we were at the colony, even when or especially when nobody was paying attention to him. he has no fingers or toes but he is thrilled about being alive and about the sights of his surroundings (which are pretty shabby, to be true). we fell in love with this cute man!
isn't this woman so beautiful? both of her legs have been amputated because the infection from the disease and its side-effects were in her case impossible to control any other way. she didn't smile much for the picture but really she was beaming all afternoon, rolling along on her makeshift transporter.
there is something so empowering and inspiring about seeing people who are perhaps the perfect picture of human suffering displaying jubilant signs of genuine happiness. these people have been through so much, and they are smiling. it makes you really not want to complain about anything and so grateful for fingers, toes, hard pallets, noses, earlobes and the ability to feel pain (things that most leprosy patients have lost).
this womans' name is mercy so i thought it was appropriate to take a picture with her (you know, the virtues charity and mercy sort of go together?). i went and sat by her while she waited to see the doctor because it seemed she needed a little company. she was so sweet and although we couldn't communicate at all in words, our hearts seemed connected somehow. she had rough dry skin that itched but she has no fingers to scratch. what a simple thing that we take for granted; that would be infuriating to not be able to scratch an itch! there are so many things we do everyday with our fingers and toes that we don't even realize...we are so blessed!
i suppose there is a slight height difference here. these little people are so cute and we felt a love for them that was heavenly.
it has been fascinating to learn about leprosy and to realize that the work of eradication is in full force. the miracles of modern medicine, health care and education are giving these people's children and grandchildren futures that they could never have dreamed of. we are truly grateful to be part of this great work.