THE work of the Leprosy Mission was the subject of the latest talk at Forfar Probus Club.
Some 45 members of the club welcomed Stuart McAra from Leprosy Mission. Stuart, a Glaswegian, graduated MSc (Electronics) from Edinburgh and had a hi-flying career in designing digital cameras and GPS systems, but his firm suffered heavily during the global electronics downturn in 2003 and he was “downsized” out.
A committed Christian, he decided to do something a bit more meaningful and joined Leprosy Mission Scotland in 2004.
Stuart has visited many of the 30 countries in poverty across Africa, Asia and S. America where the Mission work, developing self-help business groups in their own communities.
He concentrated on Chittagong in Bangladesh for his presentation, a hilly jungle area where the locals grew green beans, pumpkins and lentils to survive. Child mortality was high through poor diet and sanitation.
With training, education and injection of funds from Scottish Government and Leprosy Mission of, typically a £50-60 start-up loan to a 10-strong village co-op, they are now producing and exporting mushrooms, turmeric, bamboo (stalks as construction timber, leaves woven into mats), beadwork, pineapples (very lucrative luxury export) and shoe-leather from otherwise discarded animal skins. The bank in Dacca is pleased to invest group funds so that villagers now have savings to protect themselves in the future.
The Mission is strong on advocacy for the rights of women, the need to learn to read, write and keep books, Christian education and demonstrating that people with leprosy can be treated and should no longer be shunned, isolated or discriminated against.
Members showed great interest in Stuart’s presentation and asked a number of questions mainly about the disease, it’s prevalence throughout the world, and the cure.