Rehabilitation of Leprosy afflicted people
"Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is the oldest known disease to mankind. Surprisingly still considered a sin of one’s past birth, caused by a germ Mycobacterium leprae attacks the nerves of the hands, feet and face and, if left untreated can take away the ability to move fingers, toes and eyelids. It may destroy the ability to feel pain so those affected are prone to injuries which can result in serious infection and ultimately, the loss of fingers, toes and sight.
These physical effects coupled with the social stigma born of fear and misunderstanding, often lead to those affected being rejected by family and community, and to a loss of income for the person affected. This fear of rejection and misunderstanding about leprosy also means that some are afraid to come forward to seek treatment in the early stages of the disease."
Baba Amte, who saw beauty in these massive ruins of Leprosy maimed human beings, realized that what was needed was an establishment where leprosy patients could not only be treated but could be taught to be self-supporting. This, he was convinced, could get to the root of the mental depression, derived from the sense of being useless and unwanted, a serious feature of the disease and which psychologically tends to inhibit recovery. The patient gets engulfed in the whirlpool of deformity, disability and depression. He knew that what the afflicted needed above all was hope, dignity and self-respect.
One of Baba's deepest convictions is that charity is destructive and that only work can truly build a whole human being. Thus were born Anandwan’s various vocational training centers for the Leprosy afflicted and now even for the physically challenged - Carpentry and Metal Fabrication Units in 1960, 'Sandhi Niketan, the Home of Opportunities' in April 1970, Handloom and Power Loom Weaving Units in 1973, Yuvagram, the youth training center in 1990 etc. - each one aimed at granting its trainees a new lease of life. Such 139 activities, have gradually transformed destitute, depressed and rejected social outcastes into independent economic propositions who now contribute handsomely to the national exchequer.
Baba calls this the Mother's Approach. "A mother holds her young one's finger and teaches him how to walk. I feel the same pride she feels when I see my children independent, assured and confident." His endeavour to change the course of abandoned and neglected lives continues through his equally capable and committed family in the various projects they undertake.