The Leprosy Mission Editorial
by Susan Masima, The Leprosy Mission Australia (TLMA)
Being the daughter of two adventure-bound parents who are faithful mission supporters, it was only natural for Sarah Thompson to join the ‘Ride for Rehab’ cycling adventure holiday in Thailand recently.
Her parents’ interest in The Leprosy Mission Australia had rubbed off on to the 17-year-old, who was one of four young people to participate on the 10-day trip, along with four adults from around Australia.
Sarah’s mother, Margaret, is an avid participant in TLM treks having visited India and Nepal and her father, Carl, has climbed to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal with a TLMA trekking team. The family attend Bendigo Baptist Church.
Sarah took part in ‘Ride for Rehab’ during her summer school holidays, spending time with leprosy patients at McKean Rehabilitation Hospital in Chang Mai, in northern Thailand.
This was an opportunity for her to learn about the work of caring for people affected by leprosy as well as lending a helping hand in painting run-down buildings. Cycling through the local countryside, visiting leprosy villages and tourist attractions were also part of the itinerary.
Sarah said she recommended taking part in a TLM adventure holiday to other young people.
‘It was a fantastic trip, a real eye-opener,’ she said.
‘It was interesting to see how people can live with leprosy and still be so happy. I think travelling for a cause is the best. You don’t want to be selfish going just for yourself but you can go and see the country and do something to help the disadvantaged people. People are so grateful that you took an interest in them.’
Sarah said participating on a TlMA adventure holiday overseas would help young people to appreciate the high standard of living in Australia.
‘I think young people will be interested in a mission’s trip but it depends on whether they are interested in helping people or if they are just interested in having a holiday. ‘It’s good for young people to go and see the reality of life overseas. I saw people impacted with leprosy that were my age and it made me grateful for living in a Western society and not having infectious diseases like leprosy. I felt sorry for the people who get leprosy.’
Sarah, a Year 12 student, said she has used her experiences in Thailand to educate her friends about leprosy and the work of TLMA.
‘I tell my friends what it’s like to see people affected by leprosy,’ she said.
‘They think that leprosy is still really contagious and is transmitted through touch. But now after my Thailand trip, I can explain to them that it’s not through touching but it’s through an airborne germ. I also tell them leprosy can be cured and people can be rehabilitated.’
Sarah now has her sights on travelling to India to learn more about the work of TLMA. TLMA holds adventure holidays to Thailand and Nepal each year.
For more information on the work of TLMA, call (03) 9890 0577.