Children born into leprosy-affected families within leprosy colonies get caught in a vicious, intergenerational cycle of leprosy and poverty.
1. Leprosy - Children of Leprosy affected families, are at risk of contracting the disease due to the close confines they live in with their parents. Leprosy is transmitted via tiny droplets after prolonged, close contact with sufferers who have not undergone treatment.
2. Life in Leprosy Colony – Children grow up in a Leprosy Colony living in sub-standard, unhygienic conditions, where they are at risk of other social evils (abuse, violence), which generates trauma, reinforce self-stigma, inhibit opportunities and exacerbate poverty.
3. Social & Self Stigma – Throughout their life, children from leprosy-affected families experience social exclusion and stigma – so much so that it manifests in the form of ‘self-stigma’ where their confidence levels and self-belief become severely impaired.
4. Limited Education – Those lucky enough to access education, do so at local schools where they are bullied and ostracized by both peers and teachers. Many, especially girls, drop out early.
5. Diminished Livelihood Opportunities – With little education and no skills for decent livelihood, income opportunities are limited to options they ‘know’ and ‘see around them’ – daily laboring, rag-picking and begging.
6. Poverty – Earning as little as INR 3000-4000 per month, they become trapped in a life of poverty within the only home they know - the leprosy colony. And as their children enter the world – so the cycle continues.
Udayan: Breaking the Cycle of Leprosy
At Udayan we have a single minded focus – to break the cycle and help our children ‘rise above leprosy’ and its associated poverty - via a life of education, livelihood and opportunity.
We aim to break the intergenerational cycle of leprosy by providing a safe environment for children to grow and pursue studies and later ensure better livelihoods.
It looks like this:
Here is a real life story of Sanjay Neogi who, after attending Udayan, broke free from leprosy colony life and he hasn’t looked back!
1. Early Life in Leprosy Colony: Sanjay Neogi was living in Kakinara Leprosy Colony, North 24 Parganas. His father, Panchanan was affected with leprosy and had lost sense in his finger due to the disease. Panchanan Neogi was a rickshaw puller and his mother, China Neogi was working as an Aya in Gandhi Prem Nivas Leprosy Hospital, Titagarh.
2. Safe, Healthy Childhood at Udayan: In 1993, Sanjay took admission in Udayan and started his education from Udayan Vidyalaya. Sanjay was a calm, focused and obedient boy; he was very good in drawing and other extra curricular activities.
3. Nutrition & Education Support: He became strong and healthy at Udayan - getting regular check ups and eating heartily each day. Sanjay completed his Class X examination from Telinipara High School, Barrackpore. In 2006, Sanjay completed his Higher Secondary Examination (Class XII).
4. Building Aspirations & Personality Development: At Udayan, Sanjay began to dream of a future and different life for him and his family.
5. Vocational Training & Tertiary Education - After completing class XII and later graduation from University of Calcutta, Sanjay took admission in Bankim Chandra College in Naihati He then started taking tuition classes to support his family as well as prepare himself for a decent respectable job.
6. Livelihood & Escaping Poverty - The life of Sanjay’s family changed when he got an opportunity as Divisional Manager Club Member position in Life Insurance Corporation of India (Public Sector Unit (PSU) under Government of India) in 2011. His monthly salary is INR 30,000 per month. Besides, he gets a festival allowance, monthly incentives and insurance coverage. The job has secured his life and helped him become financially stable. Sanjay purchased land in Barrackpore and constructed his own house. In 2017 he got married to Monalisa, a highly educated lady who has completed her Master's Degree and she has no history of leprosy. Sanjay’s parents, Panchanan and China Neogi stay with him in new house located in Barackpore. Sanjay arranged for physiotherapy treatment for treating his father’s paralyzed finger and now he is fully recovered. Now Sanjay is living a happy life in society without stigma and social discrimination. His wife is now preparing for School Service Test ( SST) under the State Government.
Sanjay with his wife Monalisa