Restoration: repairing the broken pieces

Peter Waddup, CEO - The Leprosy Mission Great Britain

Down a long, dusty track in rural Nigeria there is a special place.

Situated alongside a leprosy community, the cluster of humble buildings look quite unremarkable. But inside is an extraordinary place. A place where the process of repairing broken bodies and healing lives begins.

Just from looking at the barren and uneven ground you can see how life in Nigeria is hard even for the able-bodied. To the north of the country the landscape is particularly sparse. It is hot, humid and dusty. I found walking just a couple of miles an effort. But for those whose bodies bear the hallmarks of leprosy, life really is very difficult. Their disabilities can see them only able to care for their family by shuffling along on the floor. Moving around their community is virtually impossible and completely undignified. Leprosy has stolen their freedom and robbed them of the life they deserve.

Yet somehow they hear about the safe haven that is Chanchaga Orthopaedic Workshop. Its reputation proceeds it and people struggling with a disability will go to the ends of the earth to reach it. It is a hidden gem which proves to be their lifeline, the only specialist workshop of its kind in Nigeria.

Here an amazing team of crafts people custom make prosthetic limbs. Each limb is tailored to an individual patient's needs. They also take pride in crafting other essential mobility aids. These include protective shoes, crutches and wheelchairs. Everything is made on site to unique perfection.

The skilled team witness a spectrum of emotions during the few days a person stays at Chanchaga. First there is the despair and exhaustion of someone whose only and last hope is this workshop. But after a spending a day or two with the team, a calmness descends.

Nuhu receives his prosthetic

Then by the end of their stay there is visible excitement! How might life be with a new limb or mobility aid? I've been so fortunate to see the sheer joy of someone trying out their new limb for the first time. It takes patience and practice. But to see the smile on their face as they take to the parallel bars and walk on two feet again is priceless. It truly is the best gift you could ever give or receive!

The skilled crafts people at Chanchaga don't just repair a person's mobility. The few days that they spend in this special place is the piecing together of a new life. Out of the brokenness rises restoration and hope.

I don't think there are many TV shows lovelier than the BBC's Repair Shop! It is so special to learn of the intricate craftmanship needed to rebuild a family heirloom. And the heart warming stories that come with them are a real tonic to the soul. It may sound crass to compare the work of The Repair Shop with that of the Chanchaga Orthopaedic Workshop. Yet there are many similarities.

The Repair Shop is the perfect antidote to today's throw away culture which is what makes it so special. The cracks and imperfections all tell a story and are part of an item's beauty. Nothing is beyond repair. The same as the people the incredible team at Chanchaga work with. Through their fine work and passion they are restoring the brokenness of leprosy. They are helping to piece back together a life that was lost. And while the cracks may still be visible, the journey to restoration will see the beauty of a new life surpass the one once mourned.

Leprosy patient Nuhu tries out his new prosthetic leg at Chanchaga Orthopaedic Workshop