Raphael, the lepers colony

December 5, 2017

Raphael, where I stay in India, was founded as a colony or community for lepers. For many of us our first knowledge of lepers came through the gospel story of Jesus healing them. Much of the stigma associated with the disease in Christ’s time still exists today. The children of leprous parents themselves struggle to define themselves beyond this label, let alone others who might employ or marry them.

Shiv Sadan is the area of Raphael where those with leprosy live. It’s a peaceful quarter with its own rhythms and way of life. Having a chai down there is not on most people’s agenda but I’ve been doing that for years. See the photos of a few longtime Shiv Sadan residents.

The occurrence of leprosy thankfully is diminishing in India and elsewhere in the world. When acknowledged and treated it can easily be arrested but left untreated the effects are debilitating and disfiguring.

The growth area at Raphael is special needs education. When I first started going to India this need was just beginning to be addressed. Fatalism, strong in Hinduism, is a tough mentality to break through. But now there is growing recognition of what can be achieved through the skills and patience of trained teachers and good resources. Parental involvement is being fostered, and I’ve noticed during this visit the fruits of efforts to engage with the Muslim community. Two Muslim men are in the special needs teacher training intake this year, and at last some from the nearby Muslim communities are bringing their disabled children to the school rather than leaving them enclosed and neglected at home all day.

Raphael has a special needs day school as well as a hostel called Ava Vihar. The Ava Vihar residents are either from remote areas where there are no facilities for their needs, or are orphans, or have been abandoned by parents who could not cope with the needs of their children.  Most of the phots in this batch are from kai time. It’s a noisy but happy refectory! Some of the photos in this post focus on milk – straight or mixed in with the ever present rice.

Raphael has received financial help from NZ for their daily milk supply. It’s an expensive commodity here but the health benefits are of course considerable. Unfortunately the funds are running out so I’m hoping the CEO of Fonterra reads this!

A few people have emailed me about the possibility of helping a little with what I’m up to.  That has not been the purpose of these Facebook posting but for those who might be interested you can find the bank account details here.

I’ve thrown in a few other photos including one of the Mother Teresa Sisters who I visited the other day. And the last, a splash of colour – hope – against a wearisome backdrop.

Enjoy and ponder!

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