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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy


Peni Vuniciva with his painting of Makogai

Peni Vuniciva was sent to Makogai Island after being diagnosed with leprosy in his youth. On a recent return visit in the company of the Goodwill Ambassador, he recalled some memories of his time there.

I first came to the island in 1964 when I was 16 years old. The day I arrived was a beautiful day, just like today. I remember it well.

Parting from my parents to come here was hard. I didn’t think I would go back alive. I had heard that I would be shot and killed.

But when I got here it was completely different. There were other children my age and the Catholic sisters who worked as nurses were as loving as parents. I was able to write to my mother and father and tell them that I was being well looked after and doing fine.

When I had first been diagnosed with leprosy, I was told I could no longer go to school; here on Makogai, I was able to. It was Sister Sheena who taught me how to paint and this would later be my work in life.

I also learned English here and how to play rugby. Being on Makogai gave me the will to live. When it was time to leave, I was sad. The sisters and doctors had been so kind.

I never thought I would be visiting here again, so I am grateful for this opportunity to have come back. Thank you.