Leprosy Mission Netherlands is part of an international Christian organization that since 1874 has combined a professional approach to leprosy control with attention and love for the individual patient. Leprosy patients are supported medically, socially and spiritually. Leprosy Mission is part of an international fellowship (The Leprosy Mission International). As a whole, the fellowship supports more than 200 projects in over 30 countries in Asia and Africa.
College on Wheels
In India, due to traditional gender roles and discrimination, it is still very difficult for most women to be economically independent. This is especially true for women who have come into contact with leprosy. The stigma attached to the disease causes additional exclusion. In addition to this exclusion, there are also few opportunities for women to get an education. Especially in small rural villages, there is often no access to proper education, as many women are prohibited from traveling outside their village or going out on their own. Also, many villages are very isolated and remote, making it extra difficult for women and girls to get to a school. Therefore, many people in rural areas still live in poverty. Leprosy Mission India has come up with a solution to this. Instead of having students come to our courses, we come to them with our courses. This is done by a ‘College on Wheels’. A mobile vocational school that provides training in poor rural villages.
‘I took the sewing course and bought my own sewing machine. After only 1 month I was earning 8,000-10,000 rupees (90-110 euros) per month. I thank the Colleges on Wheels team very much, my life has completely changed now. People used to look at me pitifully, but now I am respected and people love me. I no longer have to put my hand out for money, now we help other people who need it.’ – Bhuneswari Dhru, jonge vrouw met een handicap
Leprosy Mission works with special vans equipped with all kinds of teaching materials including laptops, sample products, (agricultural) tools, etc., so that mobile classes can be set up directly from the van. The bus also serves as a mini library and information desk for the villages they visit. Sometimes the bus is also used to visit a sample farm or training site with the students. In each project village, for a period of three months, vocational training is provided for women affected by leprosy, disability and poverty. Students not only receive training, but are also assisted in finding employment, including through companies from Leprosy Mission India’s network. There is also the opportunity for students to receive support in setting up their own businesses.
Through the College on Wheels project, 1400 vulnerable women and girls are given the opportunity for education and employment. This gives them an improved income and the opportunity to contribute to the (financial) needs of the family. Experience with College on Wheels in another region of India shows that more than 80% of the participants get a job or start their own business within a year as a result of the training. In this project, that means nearly 1150 women and their families have increased income and independence as a result of the project. In addition, communities are reached with awareness about leprosy, domestic violence, women’s rights and caring for each other. Because people learn to recognize leprosy earlier, new leprosy patients are treated earlier and the transmission of leprosy in these villages can be stopped. This contributes to a reduction of leprosy and eventually a leprosy-free India. Because of the awareness campaigns, women receive more recognition and respect, resulting in more opportunities for education and employment.
This 3-year project required a total donation of over €310,000. Thanks to mediation by MissionInvest, this project was fully funded by three donors in 2021.
‘MissionInvest’s work and network fits well with the mission of Leprosy Mission. Together looking with love to the most vulnerable people in order to create ripples of hope. In financing this project, the cooperation and contact with Wim and the donors was experienced as very pleasant. Both by the Leprosy Mission team in the Netherlands and by our partners in the field. Wim’s sharp eye and positive feedback helped to better shape the project and its objectives and also to articulate them to the funding partners.’ – Klaas Evers, Leprosy Mission Netherlands