Leprosy youth ambassadors visit Nepal
Nepalese people suffering with leprosy are some of the most resilient people Alexander Kuch has ever met.
The 21-year-old Gulf Harbour man was chosen as one of seven young New Zealanders to visit the country for two weeks as youth advocates for Leprosy Mission NZ.
The group was based at Anandaban Hospital, a hospital training centre outside Kathmandu. Of the 110 beds at the facility, about 80 are allocated to leprosy patients.
"We observed surgery, spoke with leprosy-affected people and visited a rural self-care group," Alex says.
"Speaking to people in the wards in hospital and out in the rural setting was a life-changing experience.
"Despite all the hardships these people and families have endured due to the stigma associated with leprosy, they still had a positive outlook on life."
Observing the septic surgery was a challenge for Alexander.
"I nearly fainted but managed to stay watching for 10 minutes.
"It involved removing dead tissue, as leprosy affects the sensation a person has in their infected area which can lead to physical injuries."
The team also hiked a two-day, 32km track in a mountainous region in the Nagarju Shivapuri National Park, rising to 2400 metres above sea level.
"The track challenged everyone in the team with sickness to freezing cold temperatures at night, but it made everyone push themselves," Alexander says.
The international relations, politics and psychology university student has a resilience of his own, born in Romania and adopted by German couple Walter and Heidi Kuch. The family moved to New Zealand in 2006.
Alexander has spoken to the Romanian Parliament several times about reopening international adoptions.
"This trip gave me some insights into foreign development and cross-cultural collaboration," he says.
The youth ambassadors have set a goal to raise money for a four-wheel-drive vehicle which will make it easier for medical staff at Anandaban Hospital to access rural leprosy clinics. They are aiming to raise around $30,000.
If you would like to donate towards the 4WD project phone development manager Gillian Whitley on 09 631 1806 or email email@example.com.