A Dortmund citizen, Marianne Grosspietsch, established the "Shanti Leprahilfe" (Lepers' Aid) in Nepal. For many years she has stood up for the poor and ill. The 62-year old was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit on a Ribbon for her commitment.


If Marianne Grosspietsch had not – in 1973 – taken Puskal from Nepal to Germany, the Shanti Leprahilfe would perhaps not have come into existence. Puskal was the Nepalese godchild of the Grosspietsch family and came from the "lepers' ghetto" which regroups all persons who are ill and no longer fit for society, persons suffering from "leprosy". Thanks to financial help from Germany, Puskal could leave the ghetto and attend one of the best boarding schools in Nepal. The boarding school director stated that the parents of other children gave him a tough time because they did not want their sons and daughters to go to a school which one from the ghetto is attending. A cursed one. A "casteless" one.

The Grosspietsch family took the boy to Germany when they returned and raised him like their own two children. There was no problem in taking the boy to Germany, since Marianne Grosspietsch and her husband knew someone who knew the King's sister, and this sister signed the application for departure.

In 1986, Marianne Grosspietsch went back to Nepal. With Puskal who had just graduated from Grammar School. Puskal met his father who still lived in the ghetto. He was blind, stank pitifully and had no more hands and feet. He did not recognize his son, and his son could not communicate with his father. A few days later, he passed away.

Marianne Grosspietsch was haunted by these impressions. She interrupted her studies of Judaism and Theology and went to find a solution for improving the outcasts' situation in Nepal. In 1989, the first leprosy facility was founded.

Three years later, Mrs Grosspietsch rented a house in Kathmandu where the beggars were sitting - next to the Pashupatinath temple. She commissioned a local doctor. This was the birth of the "Shanti-Leprahilfe" (leprosy aid facility).

"I started with 1,000 German marks. The first step was a fashion show with clothing from Nepal in the Dortmund Reinoldinum," Marianne Grosspietsch said. When the Pashupatinath temple area was declared a World Cultural Heritage, she went somewhere else and rented a hotel, the new Centre which now includes two villages. There are workshops in which disabled persons manufacture textiles, jewellery and handicraft, a kindergarten, hospital and outpatient ward. The inhabitants grow their own fruit and vegetables under ecological requirements with which they feed the many villagers.

Today, around 1500 people live on this land. It is no longer the lepers, but disabled, other sick or poor people and refugees. Nobody is rejected by Marianne Grosspietsch, but they should not "drink abusively, steal or use violence." Whoever wants to come and stay must be ready to contribute to the community: "work in a workshop, baby-sit for a disabled child, help prepare meals."

Sometimes, it is she who brings new inhabitants. Slave boys doing housework in rich families whenever the lady of the home is impure, having her menstrual. Old people dying in the street, throw-away children cast out by their families because of a disability.

She is especially proud that many of the ghetto children have eventually assumed responsible posts in the leprosy facility today. One of Puskal's mates from their childhood days has become a managing director. A former ghetto girl, an adult now, is Grosspietsch's assistant.

Marianne Grosspietsch is always travelling between Germany and Nepal. About every six weeks, she flies to the Shanti-Leprahilfe facility, to the so-called Gate of Hope, in Kathmandu. "Mama's coming!" they use to announce. She smiles: "I have to look for order sometimes; otherwise Easter hares may appear on the Christmas paper. Or the wings of the angels may be placed on their heads, like helicopter propellers."

What requirements should a human being have to found such a facility, with no institution backing them, quasi from nothing" "She has a computer-like memory and can link everything she ever learned or read, including things from her school graduation", Christa Schaaf, the minister, names the special skills of 62-year old Marianne Grosspietsch. But, what is at least equally important: a rather unexpiring love of human beings: "What you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me", the dedicated Christian says about her motivation. Marianne Grosspietsch is a member of the St Reinoldi community of Dortmund. Her terminology hardly ever mentions the term "human dignity", but it is ever present.

It is that simple, but very difficult nonetheless. Every month, the facility of the "Shanti Leprahilfe" needs 25,000 euros. This may not be much if you imagine how many people live there and have work and enough to eat. But it is a high amount of money which requires to be made available every month. Permanent money transfer orders provide 10,000 euros, and the rest must be advertised for to obtain donations, every single month.

Last year, Marianne Grosspietsch was nominated as one of 1000 women for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was awarded the German Federal Cross of Merit on a Ribbon this year. Mrs Grosspietsch sees this as a proper chance to introduce the Shanti project to an even larger general public. "I hope that people respond and support this work which is intended to the poorest of poor".

You will find the "Ganesh" shop in Dortmund City Centre, Hohe Strasse 19, where you can buy all those textiles and jewellery manufactured in the Shanti Leprahilfe workshops. The shop is open from Monday to Friday from 10am. to 6pm. and Saturday from 10am. to 1pm; you can leave with them all books you no longer need.

Whoever wishes to support Shanti's work with donations can transfer money - whether regularly or once only - to the bank account 923 923 held by the KD-Bank Dortmund, bank sort code BLZ 350 601 90; you will be issued a donor's certificate.

Please find further information on the Shanti Leprahilfe at telephone number +49 (0) 231 / 73 6914, by email: info(at)shanti-leprahilfe.de or by visiting the website: www.shanti-leprahilfe.de.