News Release

LDS Charities Joins with Rising Star to “Lift Those with Leprosy”


LDS Charities (LDSC), the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has partnered with Rising Star Outreach India to provide medications and custom footwear for victims of leprosy as well as employment for several skilled shoemakers.

Dr. Susan Hilton, managing director of Rising Star Outreach India pointed out that leprosy affects about a quarter of a million people worldwide with about 60% of cases being reported from India. Although efforts have been made to eradicate the disease, the disease persists. Each year about 130,000 new cases are detected in India which accounts for 58.8% of new cases worldwide.

She explained, “The disease is curable, but the sensation loss in the hands and feet it causes leads to injuries and the development of ulcers which in turn result in the amputation of limbs.”  Although leprosy-free, patients still suffer the social effects of the disease. The ulcers lead to social ostracizing and impose restrictions on mobility and often livelihood leading to poverty and further vulnerability.

John Peter, a physiotherapist, runs a footwear manufacturing unit for leprosy affected people, a micro-enterprise, located in Mangalam Village, Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu. Here he, with the help of two skilled assistants, Subas and Rajan, makes shoes for 800 patients in 54 leper colonies at the rate of about 4 or 5 shoes a day. 

These are no ordinary shoes.  Peter, who spends his mornings in Rising Star’s mobile clinic, said,  “I take careful measurements when I see the patients to insure that each shoe is a perfect fit.”  Besides length and width, Peter charts the irregular contours of each foot.

Using Micro Cellular Rubber (MCR) and other materials donated by LDSC, the technicians customize each “protective device,” as the shoes are called, with heel pads, arch support, lateral wedges, scooping, soft and metatarsal pads, all of which reduce pressure and friction that can damage the feet. The result is a shoe that provides mobility and protects the feet from injury and subsequent ulcer development which can lead to amputation. 

LDSC has also provided medications for Rising Star’s mobile medical clinic which serves thirteen colonies. Visits are made on a rotating basis to ensure that each patient is seen every fifteen days. Clinics are set up in village churches and community centers where patients gather and move systematically through a set of caregivers. 

Besides Peter the physiotherapist, patients consult with nurses, a doctor and dentist. They also receive eye care (eyes are very vulnerable to damage because of leprosy) and medications.  Finally, feet are unbandaged, affected areas are washed, exfoliated, oiled and massaged before new dressings are applied.

Rising Star Outreach India works in nine states and the union territory of Pondicherry and provides, in addition to medical services, economic development through micro-loans, social services and educational opportunities to victims of leprosy and their families. 

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