A nonprofit organization, Rising Star Outreach, sends volunteers to assist people afflicted by leprosy in Southern India and help change their lives. Some of the volunteers say their lives are the ones that are changed in the process.
With the motto “Lifting Those with Leprosy,” Rising Start Outreach and its family of directors, advisers and volunteers strive to help children and families cope with the hardships of living with leprosy in a country where they are scorned and shunned.
Callie Regan, program director of Rising Star Outreach, said the nonprofit takes a holistic approach to helping these people.
“We really try to combat the negative stigma in societies by helping the people with leprosy feel loved and aiding them in their healing process,” Regan said. “We do this by providing medical care, developing colonies and helping the people start businesses and by educating the children.”
Leprosy is a curable disease that affects the skin, organs and nerve endings. According to Rising Star, there are an estimated one million cases of leprosy in India. Leprosy comes attached to a social stigma in India, so the people afflicted with the disease are exiled from other community members and considered defiled.
Rising Star Outreach has a campus in the wilderness of southern India. The campus provides a place where children can feel safe and receive an education from kindergarten through 10th grade. There is also a playground and track on the campus.
Abby Read, 21, an elementary education major from Canaan, CT, said her experience volunteering in India was humbling and something she will never forget.
“It was an amazing opportunity to go help these people,” Read said. “Being able to look outside myself through serving people who really need help was life-changing.”
Volunteer programs are available throughout the year, and anyone can apply.
Grayson Dahl, another BYU student volunteer, said he would do it all again if he could.
“The kids there are great, they are the reason why I would go back,” Dahl said. “It’s touching to see how happy people can be when they suffer from this disease and have so little.”
The organization urges students to get involved in the life-changing experience of serving the afflicted people in India. Learn more by visiting their website at: risingstaroutreach.org.
“They give you more than you could imagine, more than you give them,” Regan said. “They are happy, beautiful people despite their situations.”
To learn more about Rising Star Outreach, visit risingstaroutreach.org