Lifting Those With Leprosy
While visiting India in 2000, our founder, Becky Douglas, observed a depth of suffering
that was palpable. She witnessed human beings in deplorable conditions. Worst of all
were the Leprosy beggars,who would approach her at every stop begging for help.
When she returned to the United States, she was so haunted by those images that
she knew she had to act. She called four close friends, and around her kitchen table
they quietly formed Rising Star Outreach. It was incorporated and received its
501(c)(3)tax-free status in March 2002. Their mission, as it was originally
defined, was to provide loving homes and much needed educational
opportunities for some of the needy children in India.
After a few years of supporting other organizations, the first official Rising Star Outreach
children's home was rented and opened in April of 2004 with 27 children from the
Leprosy colonies. The success of the home was stunning, and in 2005 a second children's
home was rented and opened for 32 additional colony kids. Now officially recognized by
the Indian government, Rising Star has been commended for the high standard of care and
excellence maintained in the school as the children prepare to enter mainstream society.
As word got out among the Leprosy colonies of the Rising Star Outreach children's homes,
the waiting list began to grow until it became clear that there was a significant need for
a permanent facility. In November 2005 Rising Star purchased 13.5 acres of land,
following an eighteen-month search. In October of 2006, construction began on a
permanent school for the children.
Our beautiful, new campus was dedicated in 2010. The Rising Star Campus is self
sustaining offering safe living quarters, the Marriott School for Boys and the Amber
Douglas School for Girls, for 200 children, the Peery Matriculation School - elementary,
middle and high school grades from K-10, volunteer quarters, a dining hall, Meditation
hall, and staff of over 60. It is a place of peace, learning and beauty.
While Rising Star was happy to have finally found a way to successfully care for the
children of Leprosy victims, the suffering of their families who remained behind in
the colonies could not be ignored. The school director had began taking rice and
beans out to the colonies each month in order to provide them with basic sustenance.
This, however, was only a temporary solution, and Rising Star recognized the need to
help the people learn to provide for themselves. That goal was realized in June of 2003,
when they met Padma Venkataraman while working in the colonies.
The daughter of India's former president, Padma was already well-known throughout
India for her pioneering work facilitating micro-finance projects in Leprosy colonies.
By providing small loans (usually around $15-20 US dollars) people were able to
purchase equipment and supplies necessary to begin their own small business.
Having just completed a successful five-year project with DANITA, Padma was thrilled to
partner with Rising Star to continue her work helping Leprosy victims. For the first time
in known history, those afflicted with Leprosy were provided with a viable alternative to
begging and were rising above the stigma of their disease.
As the colonies began to improve their economic situation, the primary challenge they
faced was the lack of consistent medical care. Access to hospitals was difficult, both
logistically and due to the social stigma. Rising Star Outreach responded to this
problem with the initiation of a Mobile Medical Unit in March 2005. Finally, severely
deformed Leprosy victims' problem of being unable to leave the colony for adequate
medical care was resolved. Run completely by a team of excellent Indian doctors, the
unit travels to the colonies and provides leprosy screening, medicines for treatment,
wound and ulcer care, and medical treatment for non-leprosy related ailments such
as TB, typhoid fever, and diabetes.
By the end of 2004 it became clear that the organization in the United States had grown
large enough to require the management of a professional staff and Rising Star hired its
first Executive Director, followed by a dedicated staff both paid and volunteer, Amy
Antonelli. Amy helped bring our organization to a new professional level with her
experience and insight. She quickly pulled together the first foundations of a dedicated
staff both paid and volunteer.
Rising Star Outreach has now grown into a nationally recognized force in the fight
against Leprosy. They have clarified their mission to focus on one specific objective:
to help the Leprosy colonies become thriving, self-sufficient communities.
The success of Rising Star Outreach to date has truly been a miracle. It is one that
they attribute completely to the kindness and generosity of concerned people all
over the world and the loving hand of God.