Catch Them Young
Catch them Young is an innovative program offered in several centres across India that provides financial assistance to educate children affected by leprosy. Because of this program, over 3000 children a year are able to go to school and take vocational studies that will prepare them for a career and the chance to overcome poverty. Some students have even gone on to do undergraduate and graduate work at university as a result of the chance they were given for an education because of Catch Them Young.
How does Catch Them Young work? Social workers, teachers and village leaders first identify children needing assistance in the community. Then specific attention is given to children who have been forced to quit school because of a lack of money. Without Catch Them Young, many of these children would simply not be able to finish their education.
In addition to educational assistance through scholarships, Catch Them Young staff also travel to local villages and schools to conduct leprosy surveys. Those children who are detected with leprosy are followed up on with hopes of being eligible for the Catch Them Young program in the future.
Catch Them Young is supported by The Leprosy Mission Canada in centres across India including Chandkuri, Dayapuram, Kolkata, Kothara, Naini, Nashik, and Salur.
Suman grew up healthy and, unlike her father and grandmother before her, free from the grip of leprosy.
Suman: Dreams Can Come True
But though she didn’t have the disease herself, leprosy took its toll, robbing her of a happy childhood.
Growing up with a parent with leprosy was agonizing for Suman. Not only were her needs neglected because her father was not healthy enough to care for her, she also had to live with the stigma forced upon her by the community, punishing her because her father and grandmother had been diagnosed with an awful disease.
The cycle of pain and ruin when a family member is suffering with leprosy is astounding. Suman was faced with ridicule and rejection wherever she went. Her family was labeled by this disease – their history with leprosy was stealing their future. Suman was just one more in a sad line of casualties.
It soon became clear that her father, suffering with the symptoms of leprosy, could no longer take care of Suman and her brothers. He needed in-patient care at the TLM hospital in Barabanki, India. Suman was taken to a government hostel in the same city.
Leprosy had now broken up the family, separating parent from child, separating Suman from those she loved.
Without help, there was very little chance that Suman would have a future apart from this rejection. Without a family supporting her, she had no chance to stay in school and get an education. At the age of twelve, leprosy had robbed Suman of all hope.
Fortunately, The Leprosy Mission was able to help Suman. When The Leprosy Mission Centre in Barabanki saw the situation that she was in, they knew she was a perfect recipient for the Catch Them Young educational program.
Suman was able to go to school, and through the support of staff and health care workers at The Leprosy Mission, Suman has a new outlook on life.
She dreams of continuing her education and becoming a nurse, all because of the opportunity for education that she was given through the Catch Them Young program.