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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

CASE STUDY: Helping Hands

Turned down for a loan to repair his roof, Md. Babul received something far better.

photo
Md. Babul and wife Fulbanu in front of their house (left) and together with other members of the self-help group

When Md. Babul applied to his self-help group* for a loan to repair a leaking roof, his application was rejected. But the story didn't end there. Instead, he received building materials to carry out the repairs and willing hands to get the job done.

Babul, 46, lives with his wife Fulbanu and family in a village in northern Bangladesh. Physically disabled, he finds it hard to get work. When he does, he receives only half pay. To make ends meet, the couple rely on income from Fulbanu's job selling ornaments and cosmetics.

The members felt they couldn't justify lending him the money.

At the end of December 2010, a self-help group was formed in Babul's community. It has 15 members, the majority of whom have physical disabilities due to leprosy. Babul, whose disability is not related to the disease, regularly attends meetings and contributes money from his small earnings.

During the rainy season, Babul became concerned about the condition of his house. The roof was leaking and he applied to the group for a loan to make repairs. But the members felt they couldn't justify lending him the money, given the as-yet limited pool of funds the group had accumulated, the fact the loan wasn't for a income-generating purpose, and the difficulty Babul would have paying it back. Rather than simply turn him down, however, they decided to help him make the repairs themselves.

Four members donated two pieces of bamboo each, a fifth member gave a small amount of money and another contributed cord and the use of his rickshaw to transport the materials to the Babul's house. Then they went to work and fixed the roof.

"All the group members are poor like me, but they proved that to give a donation there is no need for wealth, only willingness to help," Babul said. "I am proud to be a member of this group." (Reporting and photos by Uttom Bonik)

FOOTNOTE

* One of a number of self-help groups being formed in Dinajpur district as a project of The Leprosy Mission International-Bangladesh. Members are responsible for running their groups.