"To say that a single human being, because of his birth, becomes an untouchable, unapproachable, or invisible, is to deny God." — Gandhiji
Manav Sadhna has been collaborating with the Gandhi Leprosy Seva Sangh (aka Loving Community) since 2008, helping this small community of leprosy patients and their family members continue to develop in a positive, uplifting way.
The leprosy disease carries a severe social stigma, not only within society but also on the family level.
The original settlers of the community were forced to flee native villages (mostly from South India), either because they felt they would shame their families if they stayed or, in some cases, faced danger (e.g., being burned alive). Because of the physical impact of the disease and the common belief that it can be spread easily, leprosy patients have a near impossible time finding employment and so typically turn to begging to earn a living.
The Gandhi Leprosy Seva Sangh was founded in 1975 in Ahmedabad as a refuge for these people who had been outcast by society. A place they could call home and live with a sense of dignity, peace, and solidarity.
The community has gone through a number of evolutions since that time: it started off as a slum and the situation was dire, the arrival of the current president of the community, led to the Lion's Club involvement—who secured official land, built homes, and got the leprosy patients treated, and then finally Manav Sadhna got involved (programs listed below).
2nd and 3rd generations have been born into the community—all without the disease—there have been no new cases and none are expected since all the patients have been treated. Nevertheless, the community and all its member (with leprosy or not, including the children) still face the issues of the stigma and similar poverty challenges found in slum environments.
All who visit the Loving Community are typically moved by its loving spirit, it is a place where the heart opens. We find it amazing how embracing and warm its residents are, considering the exclusion they have faced.
For a detailed look at all the programs we have started, please see this brochure.
Here's a recap:
- In conjunction with the NASA Foundation, built toilets for homes without, addressing a sanitation issue.
- Provide free medical supplies to leprosy patients and arrange doctor's visits when necessary.
- With gracious support of Katherine and Rohit Desai Family, built a beautiful, Rs. 19L community center and commercial-grade kitchen. The community center is a venue for functions and workshops and shelters residents whose homes are prone to flooding in the rainy season or extreme heat in the summer.
- Arranged a visit with the Mayor of Ahmedabad, since that visit the AMC (Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation) has provided a number of valuable upgrades and services: installation of a footpath, trees, playground materials, waste bins, new water stations that have shortened queues for fetching water, and a renovation of an old structure to be used for smaller programs.
- On site, free Anganwadi (pre-school education).
- Free, daily dinner program for a group of the most needy residents of the community (without family, beg, afflicted with leprosy).
- Worked with a group of motivated children in the community to inspire future, community service leadership.
- Initiated a monthly, community-wide day of service to mainly inspire the children to take greater responsibility in the community.
- Purchased basic gym equipment for a small gym to be run out of the community center.
- With a team of AWF architects and MS volunteers, built a children's playground.
Those are the projects. The process beneath those activities has, and continues to be, what defines Manav Sadhna. Providing love, care, and inspiration. The community has continued to grow in wonderful ways and it really is our privilege to be involved with it.