June 2021 Mag (Online) - Flipbook - Page 19
aspects of this medical condition.
Patients would be nursed with
compassion and skill, and would
then have to return reluctantly to
their communities - only to reap-
pear again with more ulcers. This
was a combination of preferring
to be in a place where they were
accepted and cared for, and feeling
powerless to care for themselves.
Photo: Dr Graeme Clugston ©NLT
One example of NLT’s medical
and community work is an elderly couple called Marichman and
Radikamaya, whom we have known
for some time. Marichman, aged
85, is quite disabled as a result
of leprosy. He contracted it some
40 years ago, but did not receive
effective treatment for many years.
He is blind in his left eye and only
partially sighted in his right eye.
He has lost his fingers and some
toes, and wrist-drop has made
his right hand almost useless.
Radikamaya is stiff with arthritis and, because of an eye infection, has been unable to open her
left eye for the past two months.
again, and delivered some essential pandemic supplies to them
and others (rice, lentils, oil, soap
and masks). However, after this
visit, someone entered their monsoon-damaged house through a
hole in the back wall and stole the
So a medical team brought both
of them to Lalgadh Hospital. They
were given a good meal and a full
medical check-up, including x-rays
and blood tests. Our ophthalmic
officer examined Radikamaya’s
infected left eye. After cleaning
and treatment, her eyesight is
now restored; and they are both
doing much better. Staff gave them
The Community staff at Lalgadh medicines and a change of clothes,
Hospital heard about this couple before taking them back home.
To break this cycle of readmission,
LLHSC clustered patients who
lived near each other into ‘self-care
groups’ and advocated with their
villages for space and freedom to
function. These groups helped foster camaraderie and a fellowship
of shared suffering in the face of
difficulty; but, more importantly,
the group members encouraged
and inspired each other to care for
themselves and prevent ulcers reoccurring. This proved a landmark
in the development of community
health work at Lalgadh; and now,
some 20 years later, nearly 150
groups have been established.
The groups have since been on a
journey from their self-care roots,
through self-help initiatives such
as savings clubs and income generating projects to improve their
own situation, to looking outward
at the opportunities to help others.
They began to include other people
marginalised by conditions such
Photo: V. McEvoy ©NLT
as disability, extreme poverty, or
abandoned mothers with children.
They then added a focus on community transformation through
health education, literacy classes,
sanitation improvements, village
clean-ups and clean water provision.
having overcome their own stigma
and finding the process of helping others rewarding, the groups
reached out to other marginalised communities, especially Dalit
villages. They wanted to share
their experience of working against
poverty and began in Dhatora
village, an extremely poor community by a river that regularly flooded and washed the little that they
had away each time. The community had no access to health services or education, lived in appalling
and insanitary conditions, and had
little except alcohol and gambling
to pass the time. The community
was dominated by hopelessness;