For the past two years, I have traveled to India to photographically document the work of Rising Star Outreach, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to eradicate the scourge of leprosy in India and to improve the lives of those who are affected by it. RSO is committed to not only wiping out the disease, but to helping leprosy-affected people live with dignity and achieve self-sufficiency.
I have seen with my own eyes the amazing work that RSO is doing to positively change the lives of many people who had previously been cast aside and forgotten. For the first time in their lives, many of the adults in leprosy colonies are able to hold their heads up and feel good about themselves. For the first time in their lives, they can support themselves and their families with meaningful work – selling fish, creating beautiful paintings or crafting wood furniture – rather than begging on the streets.
With the help of Rising Star Outreach, the leprosy-affected adults and their children are able to break free of the stigma of someone born in a leprosy colony and stop the cycle of disease, malnutrition and humiliation that has pervaded in India for generations.
But their work is far from over. And that is why I have volunteered to document the work they are doing and to show the work that still needs to be done. Much progress has been made since RSO was founded in 2001, but it is a long and complicated process.
All you have to do is look into the faces of these beautiful children and know that it is a goal worth pursuing. Note: Some of the photos of leprosy-affected people are graphic and may not be suitable for everyone. For more information, please visit www.risingstaroutreach.org.