Hold my Hand: Living with Leprosy

For over 30 years, the Turkish Association for the Fight against Leprosy has helped leprosy patients and their families to fight the social stigma and the economic hardship attached to the disease.

Today, there are around 2,500 leprosy patients in Turkey, all coming from remote, rural Eastern and South-Eastern areas of the country. In 2008, only 3 new leprosy cases were registered. Due to the shrinking numbers, the Association gets less and less economic support from national and international organizations and private donors.

However, thousands of families are still dealing with the social, economic and psychological permanent consequences of leprosy. The physical disabilities caused by the disease, together with the fear of contagiousness, lead to stigmatization and discrimination and push the ill and their families into a downward spiral of isolation, poverty and depression. By supporting the nursing home annexed to the Istanbul Leprosy Hospital, by providing scholarships to children of leprosy patients and by funding small businesses run by leprosy patients, the Association for the Fight against Leprosy offers patients and their families concrete opportunities to live dignified lives and to break the vicious circle of marginalization and ignorance.

Giving help, voice and hope to people disregarded as the last of the last is especially important at a time when leprosy is being eradicated but the social stigma remains a significant problem in Turkey.

I truly, deeply believe in the power of photography to promote tolerance and understanding and to bridge gaps created by ignorance and indifference. For this reason, I decided to work in collaboration with the Turkish Association for the Fight against Leprosy, an organization which can be a model for similar initiatives in countries still battling the disease.