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Celebrating 20+ years of WIN -Far tougher than we imagined

We could never have anticipated the journey we’d take when setting up WIN. Looking back, our initial aim of providing much needed rehabilitation to women affected by leprosy seems easy. Easy in the sense that all we had to contend with was navigating our way, literally and metaphorically, through the most lawless parts of Nagpur and fighting to get help for the women we encountered. (I kid you not, there were several occasions we ran for our lives!) In defending the defenseless you put yourself in danger. We battled injustices relating to those who were horrendously abused and neglected. Some medics refused to admit them because their state of physical decline was so bad “it would distress other patients”. Under “normal” circumstances such women would be left to die at home or on the streets. No one intervened because by virtue of being poor and an inconvenience they were easy to dispose of – nobody wanted them to survive. Those early days were a valuable learning curve because despite the barriers, there was such inspiration to be gained in witnessing those unwanted women thrive against the odds. At this point we were joined by Rajesh, Usha’s brother. We asked him to help because of the dangers we faced, plus he wasn’t at all scared of being hands on - greatly needed since employing staff was proving difficult. When HIV hit the scene in 2003/4 things really got tough. The fear and stigma were so great that anyone suspected of having HIV would be denied hospitalisation. One of our Indian trustees at the time, Dr Charchekar broke the mould and showed exemplary courage by visiting patients in their home to administer medical treatment. Through his support WIN was able to rescue women and children with HIV and pay for ARV’s, which were not free in those days. Fast forward 2 years to when the charity employed a small but incredible team – most of that team remain with us today working with dedication to offer help where needed, with a unique blend of compassion and fortitude. We remarked at the beginning of the article that those early days, despite the obstacles and dangers, in hindsight seemed easy. Over the last 20 years we have since met the greater challenges of bureaucracy and financial upheaval. Despite everything, YOU have been a constant throughout it all. Your donations have rescued and rehabilitated women – given, hope and meaning to their lives and dignity to those at the very end of theirs. We also wish to thank our UK and Indian trustees along with support received from volunteers in Nagpur’s medical and social welfare sectors. Thank you for helping WIN survive this far – and here’s to the next, best 20 years! (Leah Pattison and Usha Patil)

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