In spite of the publicity and teaching regarding the treatability and mode of infection with leprosy, there is still a great deal of ignorance and prejudice in society against those who suffer or have suffered with the disease. This leads to rejection and refusal of basic needs both in the community and public areas like hospitals, schools and work places. And this is also true for those who have been affected by the disease like relatives of the infected persons.
Due to the stigma and rejection these people live in small colonies on the outskirts of towns and cities. These colonies are called leprosy colonies and are dotted all around India. At present, on an average, only about 30% of the people staying in these colonies are badly scarred and deformed. Others are less deformed, while many though alright, are ostracized because they are related to leprosy infected people. Because of this rejection they have no trade skill and find it difficult to get jobs or get self employed.
Due to these reasons these people have no alternative but to resort to begging for a livelihood.
Michael and Michelle D’Costa were led by God to work among the rejected & stigmatized leprosy affected people. Project Karuna, which means a project of compassion, was started with the Vision of “Sharing the Love of Jesus to give the leprosy affected a sense of worth & dignity, through acceptance and self reliance integrate them into society & church.” And with the Mission of “Rehabilitating leprosy affected people”.
Michael and Michelle felt the Lord direct them to go to Gulbarga to serve the leprosy affected people in Gandhi leprosy colony. They worked diligently providing basic medical services and acting as advocates for the people with hospitals and government.
In 2008, the Lord spoke to Michael and Michelle to change the mindset of the leprosy affected community by arranging to educate the children. The Lord opened up doors in Goa and Bangalore so these children could stay in good Christian residential homes. With the permission of the parents, the children were enrolled in local schools where the medium of instruction was English. The children learned discipline and were instructed in biblical principles as well as attending good English medium schools. The children also learn conversational English, general and table manners, and praying to the Lord. They attend Sunday worship at a local church.
In 2011, Michael and Michelle felt the Lord asking them to start a boys’ home in Gulbarga. Many girls were looked after in Bangalore but few Christian children’s homes would accept boys so the Karuna boys’ home was established in Gulbarga. This was in keeping with the vision of changing the mindset of the leprosy community through education and Christian upbringing, through the children of the community.
Michael and Michelle intend to continue serving the leprosy affected through The Span Trust and reach out to the leprosy affected in North Karnataka.