Change in the Face of Disadvantages

UK Siloam Director Richard Norton at the medical camp in India

Familiar with suffering, UK Siloam Director Richard Norton works to help the most disadvantaged people in the world. Yet a recent medical camp in India revealed one family's plight which no one had anticipated.

Richard was there with Dr Max Lange of Childcare Worldwide (CCW). They partner together with others and this medical camp aided very poor people requiring medical help. There was one small family that especially had desperate needs: a father and mother with their daughter, Amulu.

Their affliction has a great deal to do with their disadvantaged background. Born into poverty, Mani and his wife Ganga were always at risk. Lacking food, adequate housing and clean water, they were subject to health hazards which weakened their immune systems. When Ganga became pregnant and gave birth, she contracted leprosy. As Ganga breast-fed and cared for their baby daughter Amulu she too developed leprosy.

Both mother and daughter suffer greatly from this devastating affliction. Their anguish became even more horrific when, together with Mani, they became victims of a modern form of slavery which is unknown to many westerners. It is called bonded labour but victims are actually tricked into enforced labour from which they cannot escape. This family was forced to work at hard labour, making bricks.

When Mani, Ganga and Amulu came to the medical camp, caring Christian workers were determined to alleviate their plight. The team treat all those in need and also share God's love by explaining the good news of Jesus. Partnering together, they gave this family initial medical help.

Then the next major event took place. Dr Max Lange of CCW was able to provide funds sufficient to release the entire family from their bondage.

Yet, medical needs remain great. Norton sent out a special appeal and generous UK donors contributed money to help the family go to a residential medical centre. It will take time to give the help so desperately needed and to ensure rehabilitation.

However, there is now hope as Norton explains, "With medical help, this mother and daughter will not die. The treatment will arrest the progress of this disease

"Also, other aspects of their plight can be alleviated. For example, leprosy patients often experience the torment of permanently shortened and deformed fingers and toes. Sadly, Ganga has already undergone this loss. However, treatment can prevent further deterioration.

"Many people mistakenly think that leprosy was eradicated long ago. However, Hansen's disease, as it is actually called, still exists with its devastating effects as we see in the suffering of this family."

Experts point out that people remain indifferent to those most at risk from leprosy and other devastating afflictions. Relieving poverty should be the greatest priority. Then too, there is the overwhelming need to remove the stigma associated with leprosy.

Finally, prejudice against women leaves them more vulnerable as their health is often neglected. In the face of such disadvantages, looking with compassion on faces marred by suffering can lead to positive change.

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