Leprosy Mission staff go the extra mile to build a Hub of Hope in Mozambique

A team of Leprosy Mission staff have collectively walked, run and cycled more than 1,000 miles in a month to help end leprosy in Mozambique.

The group were so inspired by The Unconditional Appeal that they set themselves a month-long daily running, walking or cycling challenge. They were delighted to hit their £5,000 target together.

The Unconditional Appeal was awarded UK Aid Match funding, meaning every £1 donated from 24 January to 24 April was matched by the UK government. Thanks to UK Aid Match, the team's fundraising total doubled to £10,000, which will build a community hub, called a ‘Hub of Hope’ in Northern Mozambique.

Leprosy hides in the remote and rural communities of Northern Mozambique, where there is widespread poverty and very little or no healthcare services. If left untreated, leprosy causes terrible disabilities, including blindness. Despite being completely curable since the 1980s, the disease remains shrouded in prejudice. So much so that people often hide the early signs as they fear being cast out by their families and communities.

Pilot Hubs of Hope are now operating in the troubled Cabo Delgado province and are at the centre of community life. They are places of healing, acceptance and opportunity, helping every villager to thrive.

Hubs of Hope across northern Mozambique will increase the fight against leprosy. Inside the hubs, volunteers ‘Leprosy Changemakers’ are trained to recognise the early signs of leprosy. These amazing people are affected by leprosy themselves or pillars of the community including traditional healers and faith leaders. Each day they walk hand in hand with someone on the journey to being cured.

Head of Fundraising and Communications at The Leprosy Mission, Louise Timmins, said it wasn't just the charity team that had been inspired by plans for the Hubs of Hope.

The Unconditional Appeal has become The Leprosy Mission's most successful campaign in its 147-year history. It has raised a total of £4.4 million, including £2 million from the UK government.

Louise said: "The outpouring of love and generosity to people affected by leprosy in Mozambique has been wonderful.

"We have seen on the news the escalating violence people in Cabo Delgado face through no fault of their own. People living in rural communities where we work have also battled the devastating effects of climate change in recent years. There is hunger, homelessness and now Covid too.

"The hearts of my colleagues and our incredible supporters have been broken by the sheer enormity of the challenges these people are facing. But they have also been inspired by the resilience and drive of communities affected by leprosy to improve their futures.

“Leprosy Changemakers travel by bicycle or on foot and will stop at nothing to find and treat someone with leprosy. They share the good news that leprosy can be cured and that there is no need to be frightened of it. They are bringing lasting change in attitudes towards leprosy and understanding about this disease.

The huge distances they travel on hot and dusty roads inspired us to set ourselves a physical challenge. The team wanted to 'walk in their shoes' in solidarity.

“I think it speaks volumes that our wonderful staff want to partner with our amazing supporters to raise money for this lifechanging work. We’ve been gripped by the daily updates from Mozambique, and humbled by our amazing colleagues in Cabo Delgado. They’re risking their own lives daily to reach out to communities we serve.

"Hubs of Hope are places that really shine in the darkness. This is both physically and metaphorically as they are usually the only places lit by electricity! They are powered by solar panels, enabling a Raspberry Pi, a tiny and affordable computer, to give an internet connection.

The Hubs don’t just help people affected by leprosy. They are centres of community development. Farmers learn how to better market their produce and protect against the effects of climate change. This increases food security. Savings groups and adult literacy classes are also offered.

Each Hub has a projector and every evening at 6pm, with the exception of Sundays, there is a film screening. Using modern technology, members of the community can tune in on their radios or watch on a Smartphone. A variety of videos are shown, from leprosy awareness to educational films, entertainment videos and local theatre productions.

The fundraising team at The Leprosy Mission has been nominated Fundraising Team of the Year by the Charity Times for The Unconditional Appeal. The winning team will be announced at a ceremony held at London Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square on 9 September.