A Clean Solution
The colonies suffer from a desperate lack of clean water and sewage facilities. Because there is no trash collection, rats, snakes, scorpions, and roaches are common. As the families usually sleep on the dirt floors, they must be constantly attentive to such threats.
The terrible conditions of the colonies naturally invite health problems. Scabies, ringworm, parasites, skin diseases, and lice are an all too common afflictions. They are also highly susceptible to normal infectious diseases that their compromised immune systems cannot fight off. TB, typhoid, cancer, pneumonia, meningitis, and other preventable diseases commonly plague the colonies. Most of the children have never received any vaccinations.
Many of the patients struggle with recurring ulcers. The skin of a leprosy patient is prone to rashes, drying, and breaking. These breaks become easily infected in the colony atmosphere. The patients also cope with a loss of pain in their extremities. What would seem like a blessing to most people is actually their greatest curse, because without the natural protection of pain, the patients easily and continually injure their limbs.
Food supplies are extremely limited. Begging normally provides less than a dollar a day. The patients feel lucky when they have enough rice. Usually dirty water rounds out their diet. In the government homes, the government provides simple meals, but in the colonies hunger is a constant problem.
The difficulty of transportation makes it challenging for the patients to receive regular or proper medical attention. Similar to diabetes patients, wounds on a leprosy patient are slow to heal. Before long, the wounds will become gangrenous and sometimes even infested by maggots, requiring amputation.
Recognizing the need to address these issues directly, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh and Ellen Morton contributed the necessary means to establish the first Rising Star Outreach mobile medical clinic in April of 2005. Dr. Mani Balu, head of pediatrics at Uniontown Hospital in Pennsylvania, agreed to join the board as our medical advisor. He now donates more than half of his time working in India with the clinic. Dr. Krishnakanth, a rising star in Chennai’s medical community, heads the daily operations and has now become a trusted friend and visitor among the Leprosy patients.
Together with their medical team, the doctors have truly worked miracles as they travel from colony to colony, healing. They have been recognized by the governor of the State for their tireless efforts in the Leprosy colonies. Having eliminated the need for the patients to travel outside the colony for care, the patients are now receiving consistent treatment for ulcers and other health issues. Significant progress towards a healthier standard of living is slowly becoming a reality.
The Perpetual Education Fund
Even if disease free, children of the leprosy-affected bear the same stigma as their parents. The only way to stop the generational cycle of begging is through education.
Each year, we welcome new students to our campus at Rising Star, but there are many that are turned away after we have reached our maximum. These children could still benefit from an education at a local school, but are not able to attend because they cannot afford a simple bus ticket let alone mandatory school supplies, and required uniforms.
Rising Star Outreach would like to help every child in the colonies with the opportunity of an education. The Perpetual Colony Education Fund provides the financial resources necessary to help these children attend school. Parents in the leprosy colonies are provided a small loan. As the loan is paid back, the family can then “borrow” it again year after year, thus making it a perpetual fund.
The beauty of this program is that for the incredibly small price of less than 7000 rupees, we can provide opportunity for 12 years of schooling! The families are still taking responsibility for their children’s education, and the process invokes a commitment to success since the family is personally invested.
We believe that in the long run, the success of the children will do more to raise the standard of living in the leprosy colonies than any of our other initiatives. Their ability to gain an education, however meager, will do more to negate the stigma that dogs their lives than any other single thing we do.
Please make your contribution today!
Each child’s birthday is celebrated at Rising Star Outreach. If the sponsor sends a monetary birthday donation, it goes into a birthday fund for all of the Rising Star Outreach children. This fund provides a treat for the child to share with all of the Rising Star Outreach children on their birthday. It also provides gifts for the birthday box where each child selects a small gift on their birthday.
Holiday Donations can be made anytime throughout the year. All holiday donations go into a fund that pays for special dinners and items to celebrate popular holidays in India.
Madi Douglas Scholarship Fund
Madi Douglas, the three-year-old granddaughter of our founder, Becky Douglas, lost her 8-month courageous battle with a brain tumor.
Rising Star Outreach of India has established a scholarship fund in Madi’s name, for a female student graduating from our school each year. Having the opportunity to continue education into college will provide a wonderful blessing to these girl’s lives.
Annual Pledge Renewal
A Little Goes a Long Way
Traditionally, Leprosy patients have survived by begging. They leave the colonies for two weeks at a time to travel to the nearest city where they live in the streets as beggars until they collect enough money to return back to the colony where they can sleep (on the dirt floor) of their own home for a few days. Then it’s back to the streets again.
Fortunately, this pattern is now changing in colonies where Rising Star Outreach is working to create small businesses that allow the colonists to become self-sufficient.
In June of 2003, Rising Star Outreach of India partnered with Padma Venkataraman to initiate a large-scale economic rehabilitation project in the colonies of Tamil Nadu.
Padma, the daughter of India’s former president and a well-known activist for the poor, had already initiated several of these projects with the help of the Danish charity, DANITA, and was seeing remarkable success. Her approach is to provide small loans (usually between 70 and 1400 rupees) which enable people to buy basic equipment and supplies to begin their own small businesses. Using Padma’s methods, Leprosy patients have been presented with a viable alternative to begging and the opportunity to rise above the stigma of their disease for the first time in known history.
Today, Rising Star Outreach of India typically has about 1,000 loans out at any given time that are constantly being repaid and reissued. Padma oversees the collection of repayments using an ingenious system in which the Leprosy patients police themselves through organized committees in each colony (consisting of a minimum of two women per every five members). A representative from each colony attends a monthly meeting to provide updates on their success, present their bank statements, and to apply for new loans. Currently 31 colonies and 10 government homes are participating in this monthly forum.
As the people learn the skills they need to provide for their own needs, they are slowly regaining their sense of self-respect. Some of the colonies that have been active in micro-lending efforts for several years have almost become self-sufficient villages that no longer rely on charity for their survival. In them can be found small businesses of all kinds supported by Rising Star Outreach micro-loans, including agriculture, animal husbandry, shops, carpenters, barbers, beauty shops, day-care centers, tailors, roof construction, artists, seamstresses, bicycles, auto-rickshaws, and even some cars.
One of our most successful micro businesses is in partnership with Pearls with Purpose. Many women from the colonies are making beautiful pearl jewelry with their loans. Being able to earn income, learn a new skill and provide for their families has created new excitement as these stunning pieces sell almost faster than they can make them. Through the micro-lending projects, a revived feeling of dignity is gradually emerging throughout the colonies.
The people are enthusiastic about their independence, and exhibit a renewed excitement for life.
Instead of facing a life of despair and abandonment, they are, for the first time, full of hope and dignity.
Mobile Medical Clinics