13/02/2016 16:33 GMT | Updated 11/02/2017 05:12 GMT

A Lepra Love Story


In keeping with February's theme of love I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight an inspiring story from our Lepra community. This is the story of Ghasiram and Lochhi Khilla, a couple from the state of Odisha in India.

Back in 1993 Ghasiram was living in Podapadar, a small town in the Koraput district. He was 17 years old when he was diagnosed with leprosy and had begun to feel the effects of the nerve damage. Some 8 hours away on the other side of the state in the Malkangiri district, Lochhi was experiencing similar symptoms.

After being treated for leprosy, she was sent to Lepra's Muniguda Reconstruction Centre where our team was able to treat some of the lasting effects of leprosy had had on her hands and feet. Miles away from home Lochhi, only a young girl, knew nobody.

It was during this time that she met Ghasiram who had also been sent to the centre. They both understood what it was like to be a young person living with leprosy. They had endured the physical effects as well as social stigma. This was more so for Lochhi because, as a woman, often those who have had leprosy are left unable to marry.

Luckily, Lochhi and Ghasiram were able to find comfort in one another and eventually fell in love.

In 1995, when the time came for them to leave the centre, Lochhi and Ghasiram told the Lepra programme that they planned to marry. In the year 2000 they finally did so.

Sixteen years later the couple have had to overcome a lot more than leprosy.

Back in Ghasiram's village of Podapadar, after marrying, together they faced the social stigma and were shunned by society. Although they no longer had leprosy, the misconceptions people have about the disease meant they were still treated as if they were contagious or even cursed.

To try and rebuild their lives, Ghasarim and Lochhi set up a small business using a loan from our Koralep Project. While being a financial blessing, the business helped them in many more ways...

It grew very quickly and even enabled the couple to eventually buy a rice and flour mill. As their business grew over the years, so did their social standing. As they became prominent business figures in the community, slowly the stigma fell away.

Ghasiram said: "Lepra has given a new life to us, given us workable hands and feet. With the help from Lepra, we could marry and now we are in the society with manageable financial status."

The couple continue to live in Podapadar happy, healthy and running their successful business.

A true Lepra love story.

Images copyright Lepra

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