Governor Volunteers at Leprosy Mission in India
Mr Hill and his wife Anthea spent six weeks volunteering at the Vocational Training Centre in Champa, Central India – a project that aims to help those affected with the condition become financially independent and able to integrate back into society.
The businessman, who became involved with the Leprosy Mission through his local church, said: “It took two years in the planning to organise the trip but it was certainly an experience that has made a big impression on me.
“Across India there is a prejudice against people who have leprosy and they are often shunned and have to eek out a desperate existence.”
Leprosy affects 6 million people in India and there are still hundreds of leper colonies in the country. The condition, which affects the nervous system, is curable, but it is often left untreated and can lead to deformity.
As well as helping students with an introduction to business skills, the couple also led sessions on other subjects. Mr Hill, who is a keen runner, took a regular exercise class and his wife taught music.
He said: “It was a full blown schedule during the six weeks that we were there. We were thoroughly welcomed by the community and found the people to be infinitely friendly. We became close to a lot of people at Champa and it was very sad when we came to leave.
“It was a really moving experience and something that I found very interesting on a personal, physical and business level.”
Students are referred to the centre from surrounding districts by The Leprosy Mission's hospitals and other organisations. The centre provides comprehensive technical and non-technical training in subjects such as tailoring, welding, mechanics and IT as well as life-skills to build confidence and self-esteem. Career guidance is also provided and students are supported as they seek employment at the end of their course.