Rose is a young girl in Papua New Guinea whose face has been scarred by leprosy, but rejection and stigma have hurt her far more. “They called me Gudu-gudu – Swollen Skin,” she says. “The worst thing about leprosy is being teased. I had to leave school. We live in shame.”
Gillian Whitley, Executive Director of Leprosy Mission New Zealand says, “When I talked with Rose, my heart broke. She is lovely, gentle soul. Like any child, she has dreams and she just wants to be accepted. The taunting and bullying because of her leprosy has crushed her spirit.
“As a grandmother, it cut me to the heart to read a poem Rose wrote for our New Zealand supporters, about her rejection and fear for the future. I couldn’t bear it if any of my grandchildren felt that way.”
The Leprosy Mission wants to raise Rose’s voice so that other children don’t have to suffer the mental and physical effects of leprosy. There is a high rate of child leprosy in PNG, which is an indicator that cases of leprosy are going undiagnosed.
“It is vitally important that we find children who have been exposed,” Gillian Whitley says. Finding these children is part of the work funded by Leprosy Mission’s supporters in New Zealand. The impact of their donations is being multiplied 5X, because of matching funds through the New Zealand Aid Programme.
“The big thing with our supporters is leaving no-one behind,” says Gillian Whitley. “That’s not easy in PNG where so many people are living in remote communities or displaced in a city settlement.
“It is so important that our teams get into those rural and city communities, with the message that leprosy is just a disease that can be cured. There is still so much superstition and stigma around leprosy. That is overwhelming for a child like Rose.”
Thanks to New Zealanders, including those from Grey Power, children like Rose are being found and cured. “I feel better now,” Rose says. “I am cured now. I just want to say Thank You.”
To join other Grey Power members in supporting the Leprosy Mission’s work among our Pacific neighbours, visit leprosymission.org.nz or call 0800 862 873.
Your donation for PNG will be multiplied 5X through matching aid funds from the New Zealand Government.