Steven has lived in the Pettai leprosy colony for 25 years. His is one of 54 families living in Pettai and we are the only organisation supporting them.
Before he became ill, he was a foreman on a building site. Steven found out he had leprosy in 1977 when he began to experience no sensation in his hands. He was married but when he found out he had the disease his wife refused to stay with him. Steven had a sister who was going to get married when he found he had leprosy. His family members said he could not stay in the family house because other people would know he had the disease.
Begging is your only way to survive if you’re a leprosy sufferer
A decade after leaving his family, Steven and some other leprosy sufferers was spotted begging near the train station by our founder Cletus Babu and his wife Amali. Outcast by society, begging was their only means of earning enough to eat.
Cletus and Amali immediately started helping Steven and others by first giving them dried leaf to make huts.
After years living in that hut, we found the money to build Steven his first home in 1993. Nearly 20 years later, the leprosy village is receiving government grants to build larger houses.
We started educating the children of leprosy sufferers
The children go to school and many of them go on to get good jobs so that they can support their elders.
Every month a person with leprosy gets RS1,000 (£12) stipend for their family. Steven says it is not quite enough money for a month but they manage because his son is working as a driver. His other son studied in the polytechnic college and now has a shop.
In some years time we will not have to support this village anymore because they will be fully supported by their families.
There are many ways we help the hard to reach and their communities
Stipends and educational opportunities are just two examples of the wide range of activities SCAD employ to help make villagers and their villages more self-sufficient.
The forgotten people
SCAD started to work with those suffering from leprosy in 1987. People affected with leprosy are socially stigmatised and considered to be untouchables. They are totally isolated by the general public due to their complexity of illness and deformed appearance. They are prevented from leading a normal life. So they are forced to beg near the railway stations, bus stations and temples.
A space to be
Leprosy sufferers need continuous treatment and care as most of the cases have incurable sores due to the chronic nature of their illness. The facilities available for these people are minimal. SCAD started a small health centre in Sathyanagar near Pettai, Tirunelveli in 1990 which has been growing ever since. The health centre helps these people to access good and continuous medical support. A medical doctor and health worker is appointed to treat them for their related ailments.
SCAD also provide supportive devices like wheel chairs and crutches that support their mobility. SCAD took it as a challenge and pledged to provide shelter for these people. So far 54 permanent houses and 16 thatched houses have been built in a leprosy colony and these leprosy-affected people can live there with their family members.
Signs of success
Health facilities and housing conditions are improving. Children are studying in a SCAD school at Pettai and three women’s self help groups are actively functioning in the community. SCAD is providing a monthly stipend for their maintenance and some of them have taken on new income generating activity, no longer meaning they have to beg on the streets.