What We Do
As mentioned elsewhere, since 2008 over £111,000 has been raised. Obviously after the initial deluge it has proved much harder to raise funds. It is many years now since that awful day in January 2008 and it has long since stopped resonating in the public memory.
The money is still desperately needed however. We are now a small but dedicated group of people who wanted to keep the Girls memory alive and believe in what it is achieving. We can currently guarantee raising a minimum of £4,000 annually from regular monthly donations and Gift Aid , plus whatever extra is raised through one off events. For example in 2021, one of our supporters Inez Cooper raised over £650 by asking her wedding guests to make a donation as a present, whilst Ann's sister Val and her buddies out in Western Australia raised a similar amount by giving up alcohol for October. Meanwhile in Dublin, Ann's cousin Roger took a novel approach to Movember and shaved off his beard and moustache for the month!
The Trust itself formally began life in December 2012. Our donations are classified as “Restricted Funds”, which means that under Charities Law they can only be used to finance operations at the specified target; basically Koraput must remain open as long as LEPRA is accepting donations from us. The budget for running the actual Koraput Referral Centre itself is currently around £22,500, so our latest donation of £8,700 in May 2021 is a mighty useful contribution.
I would emphasise that we aren’t TOO specific about what should be done with the money; basically we insist that if LEPRA accepts our donations then it must continue to fund Koraput but trust it to use the money as it sees fit, provided that it tells us what it is doing with it. We are here solely to raise funds, not to interfere with how the operation is run.
Gavin Calder and I visited Lepra UK in Colchester in July 2019. Geoff Prescott (CEO) and Paul Watson (Director of Programmes) were on the ball but reassuringly not too corporate in their manner. They were both certainly of the opinion that although the Indian Government might be planning to announce the eradication of leprosy in the country, the Swabhiman Project and thus Koraput will continue to be needed for the foreseeable future. They were also very grateful that although our donation is restricted to use at Kopraput we don’t impose any other limitations, as so much of their income is now micro managed by their donors.
The Koraput Referral Centre is part of a bigger project in the area called KORALEP. This in turn was merged in 2017 with an adjacent area Bolangir to create a new project named Swabhiman (which means self-respect) in order to enable more effective use of limited resources.
There has been a shift in emphasis from a predominantly reactive approach of finding and treating people with fairly severe symptoms to a more proactive approach. The Project now is primarily focused on case detection and disability prevention, but with medical treatment provided for those still unfortunate enough to require surgery
The project focuses not just on active case finding but also screening those likely to have had close contact with someone affected by leprosy. Thus there is particular emphasis on family members who live in the same house and also the surrounding area. Thus 20 households are usually screened whenever a case is detected. School screening programmes have also been put into place.
Information, education and communication (IEC) is also implemented through mobile vans, group meetings, market exhibitions and the like. As well as disability prevention and medical rehabilitation through technical input and supplying adoptive devices and protective footwear, the project aims to ensure that affected people have greater awareness of their rights and entitlements.
The surgical side of things in the area is now undertaken by the Indian Health Service, using a government medical facility. This move has been encouraged by Lepra, as part of its policy to get the Indian Government to take over responsibility.
However the patients still need to be looked after before and after their operations and usually require extensive post-operative physiotherapy, which are roles the Koraput Referral Centre performs. It also treats nerve function impairments, reactions and complicated ulcers. There is also a laboratory facility based there for skin smear examination for the diagnosis of difficult cases.
The planned activities for 2021/22 are to reach over 3,000 people affected by leprosy, both existing and new cases, through outreach activities and care in the community. Despite the COVID-19 related lockdowns and temporary closures of the government health centres to non-urgent care, during the first six months over 1,325 people affected by leprosy have already been reached and supported through the project. Most importantly a large percentage of the detected cases were minor in nature because they were found early. They could be cured easily by a short course of inexpensive drugs and hence did not require in-patient services.
However as the pandemic eased and the demand for services for people affected by leprosy in Koraput District regained momentum, the Koraput Centre re-opened to out-patients at the beginning of September 2021. Patients are now visiting the Centre for services such as management of nerve function impairments (NFI) and reactions, ulcer dressings, physiotherapy, and training in ulcer care.
Even better, the re-opening of the in-patient department (IPD) followed shortly after on 2nd October 2021. The ward currently has five beds to accommodate patients who require ulcer care and reaction management over short term stays (up to 10 days). The target for the remainder of 2021/22 is to receive a total of 82 in-patients at the Centre. In 2022/23, the intention is for the facility to increase to 20 beds at 80% occupancy rate in order to provide physiotherapy support for 96 patients undergoing reconstructive surgery per year, plus 60 patients with complex ulcers / reactions.
If all this doesn’t seem much just remember that these are not just physical cures and the benefits are not just confined to the individuals concerned. The psychological benefits to the patients are also enormous, particularly in terms of self-esteem and worth. A middle aged man can become the head of the family again, through work and fulfilling his role as the primary breadwinner. For a young woman it means being able to marry and then look after her children. These are vital benefits in a patriarchal and conservative society.
Additionally the multiplier effect is enormous for their extended families and local communities in general. Often 20 – 30 people rely in some part on the ability of the healed man to earn a living and play a part in society. Likewise the woman may earn a vital dowry for her family by being able to marry. Also both may become part of the early detection and prevention programmes, encouraging others to come forward by leading the rural support groups and generally spreading the news.
However don't just take my word for it. The button links below lead to feedback from Lepra about the benefits our donations are having and some heart warming accounts of how individuals have been helped.