Kerala, Lepradorf
Kerala, Leprosy village

I remembered an old Indian friend, Father Cyprian, who was a Capuchin. During his studies, he had spent many years in Münster (Germany) but in 1980 he returned to India. I informed him by telegram about my planned trip to India, hoping to get into contact with leprosy people with his help. When my husband and I landed in Trivandrum, South India, we were surprised to be welcome by a Capuchin, Father Stephan, whom we did not know. We soon learned that he had been taking care of leprosy patients for many years.  He had developed a project for outcast and homeless leprosy people in the diocese of Trichur in Kerala, South India. Unfortunately, he could not find a sponsor for this important project. When listening to Father Stephan, I felt that my intentions concerning this trip entirely corresponded with his explanations.

I asked myself whether this was coincidence or destiny. My thoughts were focusing on this project and on the numerous people that we could lead out of their profound desperation. I was also aware of the fact that this decision did not only depend on me. There were thousands of questions. Would I be able to inspire other people in my hometown Dinslaken with the idea to found a leprosy village?

Father Stephan presented  the aims of his project as follows:

  • construction of houses to offer a permanent home to the outcast and make medical assistance possible at the same time
  • construction of wells  to ensure the water supply
  • construction of a workshop to offer a working place to  those who were able to work as well as their families. Thus they could earn a living.
  • Construction of a nurses’ residence so that leprosy patients could be cared for at any time.

After my return to Dinslaken, there were many discussions of a leprosy village in Kerala. I was lucky to talk to many people who were open to this idea. The parish of St. Vincentius was willing to assure the financial part of the project.

The village was to be constructed in Wadakanchery, 20 km from the town Trichur. The ground had already been ensured by donations of the III. Capucchin Order in Austria. Dr. Stephan Jairai, prior of the Capucchin monastery in Trichur was in charge of the project.

The realisation of this project required enormous efforts to realize precise aid for helpless, crippled and outcast leprosy people.

The required amounts of money were continuously sent from Dinslaken to Kerala. Father Stephan reported systematically from India about the current situation of the project. He also visited Dinslaken on several occasions to discuss any questions of our collaboration.

In February 1982 the leprosy village was inaugurated. Leprosy patients as well as their families could then move into the houses already completed. My husband and I  felt a great joy and travelled to South India. We could then follow the last preparations in the leprosy village which were completed feverishly  by the inhabitants as well as their helpers. A path from the station down in the valley up to the entrance of the leprosy village was constructed within the last week.

'lion face'

The festive day began. The leprosy patients were beaming with joy. Guests from  the whole region, also the Prime Minister from Kerala as well as the bishop from Trivandrum, were present. The repair shop, whose shell was almost completed served as a stage. We patiently listened to a number of speakers and could present the greetings from Dinslaken personally. In the evening the celebrations continued. There was a meal with the leprosy patients. We were sitting in a circle on the ground. Father Stephan, my husband and myself were among them. There was a big banana leaf in front of us serving as a plate. The leprosy people distributed rice and vegetables from buckets they were carrying around in a circle. My heart was beating. We looked at each other within this circle and smiled. There was an atmosphere of happiness and we did not need words to understand each other.

EWe managed to complete this project in the year 1985.

The leprosy village was built on an estate of 5 square kilometres and contains:

  • 40 small houses, each for 1 family
  • 1 small hospital,
  • 1 nurses’ home,
  • 1 repair shop,
  • some wells to ensure the water supply.

Candles, baskets and other items are manufactured in the repair shop.

I can look back at this time full of happiness and satisfaction since leprosy people still find a home, shelter and affectionate care in the leprosy village Wadakanchery.

We owe this successful project to the active aid and willing donations of the citizens of Dinslaken.

 Renovation works