7 Ways You Can Give Back to Leprosy Patients This Holiday Season

Leprosy Hospital in India

Rising Star Outreach at Leprosy Hospital in India

Believe it or not, the year 2020 is finally drawing close to its end! As the holiday season is among us, you may be looking for ways to help someone in need or give back. What better way to make this year brighter than to serve? Did you know there are millions of people throughout the world suffering from leprosy or leprosy-related disabilities? You can make a difference in their lives, and here’s how:

Leprosy Hospital in India

Rising Star Outreach at Leprosy Hospital in India

1. Sponsor a Child- You can form a special mentor-like friendship with a student whom you sponsor, which can change not only their lives but yours as well. Want to send a holiday or birthday gift? We encourage all sponsors to send school gifts on behalf of thier students that the entire school or mulitple students can enjoy. Here is a gift guide that can help  https://risingstaroutreach.org/sponsor-a-child/sponsor-a-child-gift-guide-3rd-5th-standard/

2. Start a Campaign- Host an event to raise money, spread awareness or gather supplies, plan a service project, or donate your special day by asking loved ones for donations instead of gifts. If you need assistance in coming up with ideas, we can help! https://risingstaroutreach.org/get-involved/campaigns/

3. Attend an Event- By attending a fundraising event, you can learn more about leprosy and the fight to eliminate it from the world. Enjoy a night of entertainment, stories, auctions, and meet other amazing people who also want to make an impact in the world. For a list of events, see this calendar: https://risingstaroutreach.org/get-involved/events/

4. Become a Volunteer- Volunteering is one of the most valuable gifts you can give! Whether that be through professional advising, interning, or just giving a little of your time, it goes a long way! No experience is necessary, so click this link for more information and to fill out a form to sign up: https://risingstaroutreach.org/get-involved/work-with-us/

5. Become an Ambassador- There are many ways to be an ambassador. Follow us on social media and like, share, and comment on our posts! Talk to your loved ones about leprosy to clear up misconceptions and raise awareness. Host a fundraiser of your own! Attend or volunteer at our events, or ask us to be a guest speaker at yours. Click this link for more information on how to be an ambassador:  https://risingstaroutreach.org/get-involved/be-an-ambassador/

6. Select Rising Star Outreach as your Amazon Smile Charity- Did you know that a portion of every purchase on Amazon can go to a charity of your choice at no extra cost to you? All you have to do is sign up on amazonsmile.com and type in “Rising Star Outreach” to select this charity, and after that, every purchase you make will donate a portion to Rising Star Outreach. So easy, so helpful, and doesn’t require any extra time or resources from you!

7. Make a Donation- Whether it’s a recurring donation or a one-time donation, every little bit goes a long way. Donate on behalf of your organization or yourself, you choose! You can also dedicate your donation to someone, just select yes while filling out the form and enter in the information. https://give.risingstaroutreach.org/product/general-fund/give-where-needed-most

As you can see, you can help leprosy patients in a variety of ways, some of which are at no cost to you. The stigma associated with leprosy has been carried down for centuries, and with your help, we can educate and inform others of the truths about the disease, provide those who have it with resources and healthcare, and also prevent even more from ever having to endure the lasting effects it can have. We hope this has inspired you to make a difference, and wish you a very wonderful holiday season!

For more information visit https://risingstaroutreach.org/.


Brittany Hunter is a marketing specialist passionate about non-profit work. She has volunteered in Portugal, Costa Rica, and throughout the United States. She and her husband, Josh, currently reside in Sandy, Utah, and in their spare time can be found hiking, traveling, or spending time with family.

15 Things You May Not Know About Leprosy

You’ve undoubtedly heard about the ancient disease that divided communities and forced its victims into isolation. But leprosy has been long gone from modern civilizations, right? Actually… no. Unfortunately, millions of people are still enduring the pains, fears, and stigmas of this unforgiving infection. Here’s what you should know about leprosy and what you can do to help fight it. 

  1. Ancient: Leprosy has been around for as long as history shows. The earliest possible recorded case was found in an Egyptian Papyrus document from 1550 B.C.
  2. Different Names: Leprosy is also known as Hansen’s disease due to a Norwegian scientist in 1873 named Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen, who discovered that the cause of leprosy is a bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae.
  3. Modern Cases: There are an estimated 2-3 million people worldwide that are living with leprosy or leprosy-related disabilities.
  4. Majority: 60% of the world’s leprosy cases are found in India, with over 1,000 leprosy colonies. Other countries with high numbers of leprosy patients are Brazil, Indonesia, and parts of Africa. 
  5. Vulnerable: Though leprosy can develop at any age, it is most common in people aged 5-15 or over 30. There are more men diagnosed than women, though it is unknown if that is due to genetics, environment, or another explanation.
  6. Slow: Leprosy can be in the body for up to 20 years before any symptoms show, though it typically takes about 5 years.
  7. Effects: Some symptoms of leprosy can be major peripheral nerve damage and muscle weakness, damage to the skin, blindness, nose disfigurement, paralysis, and crippling of hands feet along with other possible symptoms as well.
  8. Long Exposure: Leprosy is believed to be spread through breathing in droplets from coughs and sneezes of an untreated leprosy patient. It requires close contact with someone with untreated leprosy for a long period of time. Merely sitting near someone with leprosy, hugging them, or shaking their hand will not transmit the disease. 
  9. Immuned: Over 95% of people throughout the world have a natural immunity to leprosy, so it is very unlikely to get the disease unless you live in a country where the disease is prominent.
  10. Treatment: Fortunately, there is a combination of antibiotic drugs (known as multi-drug therapy) that can cure leprosy. After two days of antibiotic treatments, a leprosy patient is no longer contagious, though treatment typically lasts one to two years. If leprosy is detected early on, it will usually prevent a person from having common side effects and disabilities.  
  11. Access: The World Health Organization currently provides free treatment through multi-drug therapy to leprosy patients in countries where leprosy is common. Over 16 million patients have been treated in the past 20 years.
  12. Damage: There is no way to reverse the effects of permanent nerve damage and disfigurations caused by leprosy, so early detection is very important. 
  13. Medical Discrimination: Even though there is now a cure, many people still have misunderstandings about leprosy, and many of those suffering from leprosy are still isolated and discriminated against. They are considered unclean, and even many doctors refuse to treat them.
  14. World Leprosy Day: Every year on the last Sunday of January, World Leprosy Day is observed. This began in 1954 when Raoul Follereau, a French philanthropist, wanted to raise awareness about leprosy and teach people that it is easily curable.
  15. Humans: Other than humans, armadillos are the only animal known to be able to get leprosy.

So what can you do to help leprosy patients? Volunteer, donate, sponsor a child, attend an event, start a campaign, post about it on social media and tell your friends and family what you’ve learned (see https://risingstaroutreach.org/get-involved/ for information on how to get involved with each of these things). The more we share facts about leprosy and eliminate the long-believed stigmas, the more leprosy patients will be accepted in their own communities and can live fuller, happier lives. 

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Brittany Hunter is a marketing specialist passionate about non-profit work. She has volunteered in Portugal, Costa Rica, and throughout the United States. She and her husband, Josh, currently reside in Sandy, Utah, and in their spare time can be found hiking, traveling, or spending time with family.




  1. https://www.livescience.com/56275-strange-facts-about-leprosy.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/features/world-leprosy-day/index.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/leprosy/about/about.html
  4. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leprosy
  5. https://risingstaroutreach.org/about-us/leprosy/

Finding your passion and chasing it!

“Passion” is defined as a strong and barely controllable emotion. Have you felt that before about a cause? Whether you were marching in a rally, volunteering for an organization, working on a project or studying something you felt strongly about in school, you have likely discovered over the years what it means to be passionate about something!

Throughout our lives we are always searching for deeper meaning and depth. We are seeking to serve a greater purpose and leave a mark on the world in our own unique way. Sometimes it takes us years to discover a cause and purpose we are passionate about. Others of us are blessed to know what that is at a young age. Regardless of when we discover what puts fire in our bones, we each want to be a part of something that builds and lifts. 

As a career I am going into nonprofit volunteer management so over the past few months I have been researching and volunteering for various nonprofits and learning about the missions they promote. I have been able to take a closer look at what fuels these groups and the good that they do! It has been incredible to see how passionate the administration, employees, and volunteers feel about their work to bless lives.

One particular nonprofit has fueled this passion in me and that’s Rising Star Outreach. In Rising Star Outreach, I have discovered the great passion volunteers and employees have for serving people that are hurting from leprosy in India. Some people have stories of loved ones or even themselves who have been greatly affected by this deadly disease. One of the impactful ways this nonprofit lifts and heals those hurting is through the volunteers and particularly through the Ambassador program. 

This program promotes awareness of this disease and reaches people who are truly invested in empowering individuals and families who have been affected by leprosy. Those that choose to be ambassadors stand together and truly make a huge difference in the lives of so many! If you feel so inclined, we would invite you to join with us as an ambassador for Rising Star. Those of us on the team will guide you to know how YOU can push forward this cause and ignite your passion to love and serve others! If you would like to be an ambassador join us on the facebook page ‘Ambassadors of Rising Star Outreach.’ https://www.facebook.com/groups/RSOambassadors 

I hope that moving forward in your life you won’t just go through the motions but that you will discover what you are passionate about! What makes you excited and pumped about influencing the world and leaving your mark. I can promise that as you search for that spark, you will find it! I certainly have! 



Lindsey Bohn

Ambassador Program Intern

A letter from Rising Star Outreach alumni and pandemic fighting hero

Once a Rising Star, always a Rising Star!

My name is Sonia! 

I was born in an isolated leprosy colony called Bharatpuram, located near a leprosy hospital in the outskirts of Chengalpattu district of Indian southern state Tamilnadu. People affected [by leprosy] face discrimination, self-stigma, segregation and isolation. My parents are one among them who were segregated and after treatment settled in the leprosy colony. We, the people living in leprosy colonies, have our own world! Limited social interaction, fear of being notified or addressed as the resident of leprosy colony and left with no or limited opportunities in life.

As a child, I was unaware of the difficulties of my parents raising me and my three brothers with all odds in life. It is really painful to [remember] and compare my life today with the struggling days of my parents. They were hopeless, dependent on alms and hardly aware [of] possibilities.  

It was a bright and shiny day when my parents got to know about Rising Star Outreach. That was a day full of hope, prosperity and since then, I am “A Rising Star”.

….I was admitted to such a world class facility which is something my parents could have never dreamt of. Please allow me to admit that when I first visited the campus with my parents, it was beyond my imagination – huge campus, unmatchable facilities, enormous scope for the activities…. I [felt] really fortunate :)

It was challenging to be away from the family, adjusting in a new environment, maintaining decorum and discipline including understanding and studying in English. As time passed, it all became so simple: love, care….and consistent support.

….I always wanted to heal pain and serve the people, so [I] pursued Nursing and completed [my degree] in 2019. I am very happy in my life and grateful to Rising Star Outreach and my amazing sponsors because of whom, [my dream] comes true. Today, I am an educated, qualified and professionally trained Staff Nurse at the G. Kuppuswamy Naidu Memorial Hospital at Coimbatore-Tamilnadu. I am engaged in combating Covid-19 crisis as a caregiver health worker. I pray to God to help, give strength and energy to serve my country and humanity in such a difficult time of pandemic. 

Please allow me to conclude and express my sincere gratitude towards everyone especially my parents, Rising Star family, sponsor[s] and friends for building me as a Rising Star!

Thanks for your time, love and affection.

Sincerely, Sonia


*photos courtesy of Sonia

Fish Stories: Lessons for a World Caught in a Grisly Pandemic

It was an eyesore and a health hazard. The pond of standing water in a low-lying area had become a mosquito factory, producing enough of these parasites to torment everyone in the leprosy colony. The waters were stagnant and murky. Mothers worried about their toddlers falling in. Several times ideas had been offered to drain it, but nothing ever came of them. When Suku arrived to oversee the Rising Star Outreach school at Little Flower, he saw the pond in an entirely different light. He looked at it as a great opportunity. He cajoled the local young boys to clean the worst parts of it. He requested just $66 to buy some small fishlings. The fish were delivered in time for the February Women2Women Volunteer session from the States to ceremoniously introduce the tiny creatures into the dark waters.

Gradually, the local mosquito problem began to ease as the growing fish gobbled up the mosquito eggs and larvae. Suku wisely installed a CCTV camera so that if anyone attempted to steal a fish, they would be seen and identified. To clean the pond and support the fish, the project has cost a mere $226 over the past five months.

Today, just five months later, the colony got its first harvest. Incredibly, the camera had done its duty. Not even a single fish had been stolen, even though the colony was experiencing an intense food shortage due to the Corona Pandemic. In fact, the entire Sunderpur colony was
dangerously on the edge of stark starvation.

There is a leprosy hospital in the Sunderpur colony. People come from hundreds of miles to this hospital to be cured of leprosy. I must say, it is one of the most pitiful “hospitals” I have ever seen. So why do they come? This hospital was established back in the 1980s by Father Christdas as he was trying to save the leprosy-affected from a pogrom in India’s desperately poor state of Bihar. He didn’t have enough money for doctors or nurses. Instead the patients at the Little Flower Hospital were treated by former patients who had been cured themselves. Over the years this hospital has treated 200,000 patients yet has never had a qualified doctor until the past few months when LEPRA partnered with Little Flower and finally provided a doctor.

Recently, because of the lockdown, Little Flower has struggled to provide sufficient food for the patients. Normally there are around 120 patients, but because of the Pandemic, there are currently only 45 patients. All new patients requesting admission are being turned away out of the fear of the spread of Covid-19. Even on the best of days, this hospital is dreary. Due to the poor air quality in Bihar, the windows are so dirty that hardly any light can filter into the room. In this remote location electrical power is quite unsteady, often running only a few hours a day. In the other hours, there is no light and even in the middle of the day the hospital is dark. But worst of all, when there is no electricity there are no working fans. Temperatures can reach well into the hundreds and in these dark rooms, packed with up to 20 patients, the heat becomes dangerously oppressive.

As food funds began to dry up, and as food stores were depleted during the pandemic lockdown, the food situation at the hospital became quite desperate. The patients were confined to eating only lentils for every meal. Rising Star doesn’t have control of this hospital, but it is close to our school and we do everything in our power to help out when possible. We worried that it would be difficult for these patients to heal without sufficient protein and other minimal nutrition.

But then this week we harvested the first catch of 10-20 kilos of fish. What a blessing it was! We donated it to the hospital and the patients had a delicious meal for the first time in weeks. It provided a rare moment of rejoicing at a grim time when there is not much good news. We are estimating that there are now a total of 300-350 kilos of fish remaining in the pond, worth around $900 were we to sell them in the local market! We can gradually harvest these fish over the next few weeks. Even if our school resumes with its 185 students returning and the hospital returns to 100 patients, we can still provide this excellent protein to both students and patients once a week for eight weeks! In the middle of a nationwide food crisis, this colony and its hospital patients are actually eating meat!!!

Best of all, the adult fish are now seeding future harvests with new fishlings. At another fish micro-business project years earlier overseen by our Chairman, Padma Venkataraman, another remarkable blessing was realized. At this time, the leprosy colony involved was also in dire straits, having no way to generate income other than begging. Padma introduced a number of water buffalo to the colony as individual families each were granted a loan to buy a water buffalo.

Water buffalo need water, but this particular colony had no access to water. There was a small pond nearby that was owned by another village. You’ve probably figured out that in India leprosy-affected people and non-leprosy-affected people have very little interaction. There is a terrible stigma attached to the leprosy-affected and villagers from other villages keep a distance.

In this case, the leprosy-affected, desperate to provide water for their water buffalo, asked the nearby village if their buffalo could use the pond to cool off. This village was frustrated with their pond. They had invested money to begin a fish hatchery but for some reason the fish
never produced any offspring and the project was dying. The colony offered to pay for access to the pond and the villagers figured, “Why not? We’re not making any other money on this pond!”.

Access was granted and the water buffalo began to finally get the needed coolness to survive the intense heat of the Indian summer. To the surprise of the villagers, the fish in the pond suddenly started to reproduce like crazy! It turned out that this particular breed of fish would only mate when the waters were stirred. Thus began a beautiful symbiotic relationship that has endured for many years, helping to erase the stigma of leprosy in this area as both villagers and colonists were benefiting from sharing the pond.

I think this is a beautiful example of how, by working together, stigmas can be eliminated, and all parties can be blessed. This pandemic is providing us just such an opportunity to lay aside our prejudices and reach out to others. In the end, we all benefit!

You can watch this video below about this wonderful fish project and hear from Mr. Suku himself, the project manager of this project and the Reginal Director over our northern India efforts.

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