On September the 19th we will be walking our next annual sponsored walk beside the River Thames from Hampton Court to Richmond, and this time we will be counting “Steps against Stigma”.
One of the greatest challenges in overcoming leprosy is overcoming the stigma that surrounds it. As long as there is stigma, people will be afraid to go for treatment and will try and hide their symptoms, until it is too late to do anything about them. They then have to endure the “living death” that leprosy can bring, often finding themselves isolated from their families, friends and work colleagues. This is a common story amongst people affected by leprosy in the Terai area around our centre.
NLT has dedicated itself to not only treating the symptoms of leprosy, but also to eradicating the stigma in the minds of people in communities in the region around our Centre at Lalgadh. We have worked at this through extensive street drama campaigns that have reached over 2 million people in the towns and villages in the Terai region; we have also worked for nearly 13 years developing self help groups which have empowered people disabled by leprosy to help themselves out of poverty and also help their communities to improve in various ways. There are now over 100 self help groups dotted around our work areas and these involve between two and three thousand people directly. These in turn benefit many thousands of dependents and community members indirectly, with better health, better education, better water supplies, better sanitation, better farming, better roads, amongst other initiatives that these groups have started. Where these groups function, the associated communities now have a very different view of people affected by leprosy, seeing them as useful community members rather than as human refuse to be disposed of out of sight and out of mind. The evaluations that we have done all show that these group members report a near-normal degree of community participation for themselves, contrasting very sharply with the experience of others who are not part of a group.
Our sponsored walk has become an annual event and we would love you to become involved, either in our walk in the Richmond area, or by organizing your own walk wherever you are. If you can calculate the average number of steps that each walker takes per 100 metres, it is easy to calculate an approximate number of steps for a given length of walk. Alternatively, a pedometer can record the steps that you take and give you a more accurate count. A “Million Steps against Stigma” has a good ring about it and we would love to see this annual event grow into something big enough to really impact on the problem of leprosy stigma in Nepal. For it to grow, it needs people to take it to heart, to take it on board, and to organize events around the country that can happen around the same time, and have a united purpose.
Come and join us at Richmond, or organize your own steps against stigma.