In preparation for the Planting The Seeds For Hope And Resilience UNESCO Style Conference on the 27th and 28th of May, Dongguan HubHao teamed up with ISD to bring our readers interviews with the guest speakers. Dr. Michael Chen from HANDA Rehabilitation & Welfare Association talked to us about the work he does and what we can expect from his workshop.
Please could you introduce yourself and the organizations you are representing?
I am Michael Chen, a medical doctor, now working with HANDA Rehabilitation & Welfare Association as Secretary General. I am also a member of the technical commission of ILEP (International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations) and a consultant to WHO (World Health Organization) on the issue of leprosy. I have been working with HANDA for 18 years.
HANDA is a local grassroots NGO founded in 1996. The mission of HANDA is to work with people affected by leprosy to improve their quality of life by providing public education and rehabilitation services.
The very core principal of HANDA is to engage and empower the people affected by leprosy to seek a dignified life and finally reintegrate into society with the values of equality, participation, empowerment and dedication. HANDA has four main working areas: physical, economic, social, and psychological rehabilitation. During the past 20 years, HANDA have been working in more than 200 leprosy villages in 12 provinces in China. More than 20,000 people benefit through HANDA project.
How did you get involved with the organizations?
My involvement in HANDA can date back to the very beginning of its establishment, not as a full-time staff member, but as a part-time volunteer. My full time job at that time was a doctor in hospital. I was deeply moved by Dr Yang’s devotion (Dr. Yang was the founder of HANDA and my teacher) and the life stories of the people affected by leprosy.
I traveled to leprosy villages with Dr Yang to collect the needs of the people and provide medical assistance to them at the beginning. Gradually, the activities expand to all aspects of the people’s life. With the increasing needs of the people and the increasing projects, I finally joined HANDA as a full-time staff member at the end of 1998.
What can people expect from your workshop at The Seeds For Hope And Resilience Event?
I do hope that through my workshop, the participants could have a better understanding about leprosy as a common skin disease and understand the people affected by it and the challenges they are facing. Through the life stories of the people, the participant could learn from their courage and the strong will to face all the challenges. They should also have some knowledge about NGOs and how NGOs work to create an equal and inclusive society.
Just how important are events like these in spreading awareness?
As the young people will be the future of the society and will take the responsibility for the future, it is extremely important for them to understand the real and diversified society so that they could have a comprehensive understanding about the people’s life, especially the marginalized and disadvantage people. I do hope that they this will be a seed to plant in the heart of the young people, and it will grow together with our people so that we could bring to fruition a harmonious and inclusive society.
For the case of leprosy, misconception and fear of the disease are the main reasons to isolate and discriminate people affected by the disease. From this workshop, I hope more people will become supporters and volunteers of HANDA to help to address the needs of the people, and become advocators to pass on the right knowledge to the people around
If you could only choose one thing for those attending your workshop to take away and remember, what would that be?
We are the ones to take the responsibility for our society. One person is small and weak, but we could influence many others to make a big change for the people.
And leprosy is a curable disease and very hard to contract. With early diagnosis and treatment, there is no reason for disability to occur. Your acceptance to people affected by leprosy is the greatest step to help them reintegrate into society.