self-help groups

NLT Ireland focuses on personal and community uplift. After diagnosis and treatment of leprosy at NLT’s Lalgadh hospital or an outlying clinic, individuals – who may be completely cured but permanently scarred – are trained to take care of their wounds.

On their return to their village, NLT helps them to join or set up a self-help group (SHG): 10-15 people affected by leprosy or other stigmatising conditions such as poverty or disability.

Community midwife Pretty (centre) with self-help group leader and treasurer. Chepkat village, Sindhuli 2016. Photo: S. Winterburn ©NLT

Members meet regularly to share experiences, address challenges and encourage each other. In this way huge traditional barriers break down. Men and women, young and old, Muslims, Christians and Hindus of different castes all sit together and share their struggles, offer advice, laugh and cry, touch and comfort each other, building self-esteem and confidence.

SHGs go on to bring practical benefits to their villages such as digging wells, building schools and setting up small businesses through microcredit.

Self-help group meeting attended by Mike Winterburn, Chairperson of NLT Ireland. Photo: S. Winterburn ©NLT 2016
Father and child attend Itaharwa self-help group meeting, on an icy cold January day 2018 ©NLT

Case story:

Helping themselves in Bengadawar Village

Income generation, schooling and adult literacy are among the fruits of the self-help group (SHG) at Bengadawar village near Lalgadh in south eastern Nepal. After only a year the twelve members are supporting each other and the wider community to fight the stigma of leprosy. The SHG has been offered a school room for weekly meetings, literacy classes and lessons for children who can’t afford formal education.

SHG beneficiaries include Shankar Pariyar who was paralysed in a recent accident and can no longer earn money by selling locally produced food. The SHG raised funds for him to rear pigs to support his family of seven and he was treated free of charge at Lalgadh Leprosy Hospital. His wife joined the SHG and now has a permanent job as a cook at Lalgadh Leprosy and Services Centre.