SASAKAWA MEMORIAL HEALTH FOUNDATION
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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

‘AS LOVING AS PARENTS’

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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.