Emma Rothwell (Diocesan Youth and Children’s Officer), describes the sandal-making process at Karagiri that inspired the Good for the Sole project.
Over the past two years we have heard so much about through the Good for the Sole project. It has highlighted the importance of sandals for many who suffer from leprosy.
In many ways I think all the members of the team were surprised by how much more there was to see and learn during our trip than we could have expected. From the heady heights of hi-tech research and family psychology to the more mundane subjects of the importance of using oven-gloves when your hands have lost sensitivity, the staff at Karagiri overwhelmed us by the enormity of the project they have taken on and their ambitions to deliver the best care possible.
The sandal project is prime example of this. The deformed feet of leprosy-affected patients are more prone to ulcers and it is repeated ulcer damage that causes further deformation and eventually loss of hands and feet. The staff at Karagiri were determined to minimise the risk of ulcers. A team was commissioned, with the help of a local business, to study rubber for two years in Chennai to develop a product that would be both durable, and the exact softness needed to cushion the kind of deformities that can arise in a foot due to leprosy, diabetes and other diseases. A plant was then built in Karagiri to produce this rubber which is then used in the sandal workshop. The end product looks relatively simple, even underwhelming given all we learned about their world-class research and their success medical programmes, but the story behind The Leprosy Mission’s sandals is truly amazing. There would be little use in having reconstructive surgeries and being trained in new ways to earn an income if you eventually lost your feet for the lack of sandals!
The whole team are extremely grateful to all the staff who looked after us and made us feel so welcome in India. Their service and commitment has been awe-inspiring to us all. We were constantly aware that with the gifts, talents and skills they possess, all of the people we met could have been living it up in high-paying jobs elsewhere in India or the wider world. Their constant refrain was that the love of Christ empowered them to carry on their mission and to serve the people of Karagiri and Vada.
There are many stories of more wonderful people that we met, but we will never forget the impression they have made upon us. The team are especially grateful to Ken Gibson and Kyle Petrie from TLM Ireland who made this trip possible, and to Dr. Manaam Ebenezer, the director of the Karagiri Hospital in particular, for giving us so much of his own precious time, for arranging an amazing itinerary and for hosting us in the Karagiri guest house.