Grand Commandery’s vocation improves lives of leprosy sufferers
For thousands of years, people with leprosy have been stigmatized and, till this very day, in some countries they are even banished from their respective communities. While leprosy has been eradicated from Malta, and the subject is just mentioned once a year on World Leprosy Day, observed around the world on the last Sunday of January, a jurisdiction of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, based in Malta, has made it its ongoing mission for the last 45 years to fund charities assisting hundreds of lepers in both India and Uganda. Its ongoing support has significantly improved the lives and alleviated the suffering of lepers.
The members of the Grand Commandery of the Castello, based at Castello Lanzun in Mensija, limits of San Gwann, currently assist two main charitable organisations: Women in Need (W.I.N.) in India and Kagando Hospital in Uganda.
Women in Need
Since 2010, the Grand Commandery has provided regular support to, and built a long-term relationship with, the Women In Need (WIN) charity based in Nagpur, India. WIN is run by two remarkable women, Leah Pattison and Usha Patil.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of sick women being abandoned on the streets,” said Ms Pattison, who has left a comfortable life in the UK to assist lepers in India. “In 2017, we have employed more staff members to cope with the increasing demand on the charity’s services. We have also developed collaborative initiatives with the local hospitals. In their free time, various consultants contribute time and expertise when they visit our shelter in Dattapur. However, the challenge is to maintain all the services we offer to our leper brothers and sisters”.
An unusual photograph of the three vehicles donated by the Grand Commandery
to projects in India - all together at once. The motorised rickshaw was donated
to "Women In Need" (WIN) for use by the Women's Refuge in Wardha.
The ambulance in the centre was provided for the main leper colony
at Dattapur and the one on the right to WIN at Nagpur.
In 2017, 18,920 women were served and/or educated through WIN. The charity regularly discovers women abandoned who are very sick or dying, and are offered a bed in their hospice in Wardha. This hospice for the terminally ill was funded by the Grand Commandery of the Castello itself.
WIN collaborates with many health workers operating in different sectors of the region’s health department. Over these 17 years, the charity has developed a network of volunteers who assist WIN in combating many areas of women’s health and needs.
Every year, the Grand Commandery Hospitaller Chev Paul Warren travels to India and Uganda to monitor the progress being made.
The Grand Commandery first funded a building of a house for a leprosy sufferer and his family in 2016. His mud hut, called home, was destroyed during the monsoon season. When Chev Paul Warren visited last year, he found Michael's new home to be well built and now can withstand the rain season. While there, he visited Kagando Hospital in Western Uganda which has a leprosy department.
Leprosy is still common in this part of the world, and Paul saw many sufferers, both in the hospital and the surrounding areas. The people are very poor and have no water or electricity. Collecting water often involves trekking for several hours. During his two visits Paul met several leprosy groups.
Last year the Grand Commandery began a partnership with Kagando Hospital run by the Anglican Church of Uganda. Through the intervention of a retired Maltese nurse Rita Miller, who every year helps in the hospital, it was decided to build two units as accommodation for visiting medical staff and young graduates, who will be also trained in assisting lepers. Furthermore, the rental income from the property would go into a dedicated account for the benefit of leprosy sufferers.
Over the years, Chev Paul Warren has paid regular visits to WIN in India and in recent years to Kagando Hospital in Western Uganda, each time to see at firsthand how the money donated by the Grand Commandery was being spent. All the money raised from activities held by the Grand Commandery and donations received are directly injected into these charitable projects, and none of this money is used for administration nor for travels “We deal directly with the local charitable organisation on the ground, where we are able to visit, see and monitor the outcomes, first hand. We go straight where the need of the lepers is because with our funds we can do more for these less fortunate people.”
For more information please visit The Grand Commandery’s website: http://grandcommanderymalta.org/charity-work