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Leprosy in India
Leprosy seems to be a disease of the past, but today it impacts over 5 million people world-wide. There are about 350,000 new cases a year, mostly in India and surrounding Southeast Asian countries. Globally over 3 million people are permanently disabled as a result of leprosy. Leprosy affects the skin, peripheral nerves, respiratory tract, and the eyes. The disease has a devastating impact on the victim. Highly-effective multi-drug therapy is available and elimination of the disease is possible, but often, lepers can't get the treatment themselves.

The effects on leprosy victims are very harsh, and include social isolation, poverty, weakened immune systems, and permanent disability. Victims need the most basic things, such as food, water, and shelter. Even after treatment for leprosy, victims continue to be isolated in the colonies due to social taboos and fears that permeate the culture. Once confined to a leprosy village, reentering society is nearly impossible. Lepers are forced to live in colonies where they don't have homes, enough food for their families and are unable to get jobs. Imagine entire families forced to live in poverty because of this rare disease.
Little light Leper Children's Home

Little Lights Leper's Medical Clinic

little joe

The Little Lights Home
The Little Lights home is located on the outskirts of Chennai and is home to 34 children whose family members live in leper colonies. The vision of the Little Lights staff is to take in children who are often neglected or at high risk, and give them a loving home, a good education, and hope for the future. Their dream is by 2020 to see these children become doctors, lawyers, and skilled professionals. Then, they can break the cycle of generations of lepers in their families.

It is not just the children who make this place such a blessing. It is the staff who live here and spend every day caring for these kids! The staff are primarily young women, joyful, beautiful and hardworking! Without ever taking a break they cook, clean, wash, scrub, pamper, play and care for every single child! They love them all! They have constant smiles and devotion, and pour out so much selfless love!
Can You Call Me "Joe"?
We first met Joe several years ago. He was the son of lepers, living in one of the leper's villages surrounding the large city of Chennai. When he was 2 years old he was found tied to a mango tree by the staff. Each day his parents would tie him up to the tree, and go into the city to beg. They left him to fend for himself! When the staff talked to his family, they agreed to allow their son to go to the Little Light's Home.

When the little boy came into the Little Lights home, they asked him his name. He simply responded, "I don't have a name, can you call me Joe?" Today Joe is a thriving 7 year old, going to school, and is safe at Little Lights.

Photography by Nathan Golden.