A leprosy community I lived in for nearly three years (2011, 2013-2014) where I facilitated a number of development projects, centered mostly around youth leadership, girl's education, and environmental beautification.
Location: Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
My journey started with Guru who is paralyzed from the neck down due to Cerebal Palsy. I offered simple caring company.
Word got out that I was a doctor (I'm not) and requests started coming in for me to come and sit with those having pains of various sorts. Many hours of the day were spent like this.
This process connected me with the community's youth, which led to my first learning journey called, "Loving Leadership."
Here is a clean up effort that involved the youth and many older residents, the first such clean up in the community's history.
Because of some of the bullying issues from the leprosy disease stigma, we built a playground inside the community for the kids.
The construction involved both residents and many volunteers from around the world.
As time marched on, new learning journeys unfolded.
The "Me 2 We" group, made up mostly of teenagers at the time, all pledged to take their education seriously, help out in the community, and generally be the change.
Over the years, we have engaged the women of the community to work together and step a few inches outside of their somewhat restrictive housewive roles.
Towards the end of my stay, I turned my attention to the younger girls of the community, noticing their dynamism and with some, a strong interest in pursuing education.
We called this learning journey "Love Class," which had a remarkable impact on the girls' character development and subsequently paved the way for "Dream Class."
I owe a major debt of gratitude to Manav Sadhna, ESI, and the many volunteers and travelers I met along the way who enabled me to do everything I did during this time.
For more information about the community, leprosy, and my involvement, read the details here. You can also read the latest news and updates on the SmileBlog here.