by Rolf H. Latussek

A German lady helps the outcast in Nepal

The project is exemplary in that it shows how medical and social support can result in joint success in the fight against leprosy. Marianne Grosspietsch has set up leprosy stations in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu and at two other locations which are designed to provide the sick people with a perspective in life. In addition to medical care, schools, workshops for the disabled and ecological farming provide the people with advanced education, work and an income.

The patients are normally unable to return to their native villages after receiving medical treatment. "Sad experience has shown that a return is wishful thinking", said Marianne Grosspietsch. "The mutilations resulting from the leprosy remain and the sick are not taken back into healthy society. They are sent away and often violently expelled. They do not dare to return to our station because they are discriminated against on their way to us. Their situation is often worse than before." This means that many of them remained there and the leprosy stations grew into their own villages.

It all started 30 years ago. This was when Marianne Grosspietsch got to know the catastrophal situation in a Nepalese leprosy ghetto in Kathmandu. In 1992, she founded the Shanti Leprahilfe Dortmund e. V., charity and the first station to be erected in Kathmandu was the Shanti Sewa Griha (Peace Service Station). It soon became clear that medical care alone would not suffice to help the people. The sick had to have their lives placed on a new footing and this was what set Shanti apart from other leprosy projects. Shanti is in the meantime home to 1600 men, women and children. Not all of them suffer from leprosy; other people with physical impairments are also accepted. It is often the case that the children are healthy but their parents suffer from leprosy.

Everyone is given a chance. It starts in the crèche and continues through the kindergarten and their own school, at which they learn basic arithmetic and how to write, in addition to other subjects which are also learned at our schools. "We then offer youths who are good with their hands, work in our workshops and we enable those with the best intellect advanced education, these then even qualifying as doctors and chemists", said Marianne Grosspietsch

A tailor's workshop, a silversmith and a doll's factory manufacture products which are then sold in the Ganesh charity shop in Dortmund. "In exceptional cases, we sell silk scarves in a hotel in Kathmandu after the scarves have been woven using old Nepalese techniques", said Mrs Grosspietsch. "For us, it is important that the people earn their living themselves. This means that they are then normal customers in the stores in the city and have a purchasing power which no store owner can ignore. This means that we achieve a small amount of integration."

The founder places great value on the retention of local traditions whilst working in a modern manner. Waste water and biological waste are fermented in a fermentation plant. The biogas which is obtained as a result is used by the large kitchen for cooking and that which remains after fermentation is used as natural manure for the fields. Solar cookers which make use of the sunlight also help to save energy.

Self-sufficiency is the byword on the market garden and ecological aspects govern the agriculture. Potatoes and European vegetables grow on the fields. Papayas, mangos, oranges and peaches are plucked from the fruit trees. That which is not required for their own use is sold at the local market.

Carers instruct mothers of undernourished children are shown what balanced nutrition is like. "We show the mothers how to grow tomatoes in a plant-pot and are able to grow vegetables for their children even in the smallest corner of land", said Marianne Grosspietsch. "Women are especially a very important target group for us. They are responsible for bringing up the children, so that they are the people who pass the traditions on. In Nepal, as in many other parts of the world, women in Nepal are very under-privileged.

Far-sightedness and flexibility, addressing and promoting the individual skills of each them form the basis for the success of the Shanti-Leprahilfe. The organisation will be 15 years old in the summer and some of the children from the beginning are now adults. "A boy from that time is now studying medicine and a second is to become a hotel manager in Shanghai"; said Mrs Grosspietsch. "Both of them wish to return and assist with the continued development after completing their studies."