The Children's Home is seen by many in the leper community as a place of opportunity and hope for their children. Without this ministry the chance of their children getting educated and being successful is often not obtainable. The parent's live in leper colonies where their only income is from begging, which occupies their full day. They do not have the money or time to care for their children. But even if they did have the money, their children would be mistreated and not allowed in local schools. Furthermore, many of the parents move frequently which would disrupt their children's education if they lived together.
Every year there are more parents wanting to get their children into the homes than there are places at the Home. The continued social stigma, caste discrimination and poverty that affects those with leprosy creates a situation where a child would be locked into poverty if there was no way for them to escape this environment.
Today, the diagnosis and treatment of leprosy is easy. Unfortunately most new cases of leprosy occur among poor and uneducated people. They often hide the symptoms, because when they are found out, they are turned out of their families. Instead of getting treatment, they have to fight for basic survival. It may be many months before they make their way to a hospital and get treatment, and this is often after permanent nerve damage has taken place, and deformities have begun.
Worldwide, new cases of leprosy have dropped from 763,262 in 2001 to 299,036 in 2005 to 249,007 in 2008 (based on WHO reports).
Eradication is defined as reaching a prevalence of less than 1 leprosy case per 10,000 population. According to this definition, leprosy has been eradicated from our country. But even so there were 134,184 new cases of leprosy reported in the country in 2008. This country accounts for more than half of all the new cases of leprosy reported worldwide. (Based on a WHO report published in 2009.)
Even though there has been a wonderful decline in the new cases of leprosy, the number of people who are marginalized by the effects of leprosy and public stigma is an estimated 2 million people in South Asia.
Worldwide there has been a shift in thinking away from residential childcare in favor of community-based childcare. Many who used to say it is better for a child to be in a safe, nurturing environment even if this means being separated from the parents are now saying it is better for the child to be with his parents even in a dangerous or oppressive environment. This shift follows the shift in thinking of western psychology away from an emphasis on IQ and academic criteria to an emphasis on emotional well being (EQ). The question is whether the Children's Home should change its approach accordingly.
The Children's Home has been operating for more than 65 years and more than 1,000 children have graduated and become well-adjusted contributing members of society. We have seen that many children growing up in leper colonies continue in poverty and the low quality of life of their parents (even if they do not contract the disease, which is likely).
The success of the Children's Home stems largely from our philosophy which is summarized in our motto "That they might have abundant life". From the start the Children's Home focused on development in body, mind and spirit, not just feeding hungry children. The negative effects of taking children from their parents are largely compensated for by creating a warm, loving, family atmosphere in the Children's Home. Furthermore, the children remain in contact with their parents and many of them provide for their parents when they grow up. The Children's Home strives to foster intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual development for all the children.
The Children's Home has started to give the children three weeks during the summer vacation to spend with their parents. This is a good time for the parents and children to get re-acquainted with each other, and both children and parents enjoy being together very much! This also allows the children to experience the realities of how their parents live, and what the blessings they experience in being at the Home. At the end of this vacation it is hard to say good-bye, and especially some of the younger children miss their parents for a few days or weeks after they return to the Home and school.
The Home makes arrangements to keep those children who do not have parents, and we organize some special events for them to enjoy during this time.
Most graduates of the Home choose careers in the medical field due to the availability and security of jobs. Many of the girls become nurses, and boys often become lab or x-ray technicians. A significant number have also become teachers, accountants and social workers.