Leprosy has a grim history in Myanmar. Many of the early missionaries gave sufferers what help they could, often gathering around them communities of affected families.
Such was the case in Mandalay, where a group began to gather around the missionary’s house from 1892. By 1990, around 600 families affected by leprosy lived there. But the government decided
Mandalay was not the place for them and they were removed to some empty land over 30 miles away. Each household was given a plot 60’ x 40’ on which to build a house.
This is now the village of Nanthamyen. The relocated villagers still receive care from Mandalay Methodist District, which provides home care and an ulcer clinic, some scholarships for fees to the local primary and secondary schools, plus IT classes and other vocational training. There is also an excellent microfinance scheme started and run by the minister. Sixty families currently have loans and each is part of a support group that ensures loan repayments are made and learning, experience and expertise shared.
These days, people living with HIV/Aids suffer in much the same way as those with leprosy did when Nanthamyen began. Again, the Church is on hand to help. HIV work here is mainly focused around the drop-in centre the Church runs in Yangon. Through this and by inviting people in, the Church works to raise the profile of people living with HIV/Aids and challenge the stigma that still persists. The drop-in tries to support people in a variety of small ways, but the task is considerable in a country where only a small proportion can afford the drugs that might help them. The Church also works with the few other organisations and NGOs that are active in this field in Myanmar.
This article has been reprinted with permission from World Church News June 2017.