Today (Thursday) is typically the day we get off from work, so we signed up to visit a leprosy colony organized by the Missionaries. After hearing the inspiring but horrific story of Damien sometime in these past few years, I was really prepared for the worst; but in the end, it was a much more uplifting experience that I expected.
Leprosy is still stigmatized, and the connotations or thoughts conjured up by the disease really do the people inflicted with it a disservice. Of course there are terrible cases of leprosy that go undiagnosed or untreated for far too long, but as the brothers running the facility today, all of the patients in their care have their illness under control (in other words, there was no risk of any visitors ever being infected). The severity of the leprosy varies widely across the patients, but as we saw, there really isn’t a big need for outside help because the patients do a very good job of running their own lives and maintaining the compound.
We saw most of what they do at the colony, and it was an eye opening experience. Aside from simple cleaning/feeding tasks, many patients help make goods that the Missionaries of Charity are able to use. The coolest part of what we saw was the loom rooms where they make many different cloths including the dressings for the patients’ wounds that are changed everyday and the sari’s that the Missionaries wear.
I think most of us were expecting to do a normal day’s work at the colony, but as I’ve said, there wasn’t much for us to do. While that caught us (at least me) off-guard, it is probably better that way. How would you feel more dignified: watching some outsider come and do chores while you sat in bed all day, or by proving your ability to work and provide for you and yours?