The FREE-project in Bangladesh
Leprosy is a disease that affects hundreds of thousands of people each year and has shattered the livesof millions. The disease has dire consequences as people are isolated and are falling into extremepoverty. Among other places, this has happened in the poor regions of Northwest Bangladesh. Thepeople living here have been disproportionally affected by the Coronavirus. The reserves they still hadhave been exhausted to survive the lockdown. Despite this, Leprosy Mission Bangladesh has identifiedpossibilities to assist people in becoming self-reliant. In the FREE project, Leprosy Mission supports thepoorest people through innovative means in collaboration with local partners.
two chief elements:
The FREE project stands for the Facilitation of Rights, Entitlements, and Empowerment. The project has
1. Awareness and involvement of local leaders and influential people. Leprosy Mission makes localleaders aware of the needs of people affected with leprosy and of their responsibility towardsthis vulnerable group. In addition, local support groups are established to support individual2. Improved self-reliance of self-help groups. An important component of the project is to set upself-help groups. These groups, consisting of 10-15 individuals, work together on economic andsocial independence of its members. They do this by saving money together, starting businesses,and by supporting each other in times of need.
"The FREE project is an innovative one and designed to ensure access of distressed people to thegovernment services through advocacy by The Leprosy Mission Bangladesh. The FREE project helpspeople to become self-sustainable through self-help groups and economic activities.” - Mr. JipthaBoiragee, programme support coordinator
An innovative component of this project is that Leprosy Mission is not only focused on directlysupporting the self-help groups, but also looks for external possibilities to support these groups. Forexample, the groups are assisted in utilizing existing government arrangements, such as agriculturaltraining, loans, seeds, etc. It is often difficult for the poor to get access to such arrangements, but accesscan be obtained through a self-help group and more awareness by the government and communities. Asa result of this, the poorest families receive agricultural, economic, and social support.
Within the project there is close cooperation with SHALOM, the relief organization of the Church ofBangladesh. This Christian organization strives to show the love of Christ through its work.
The project allows Leprosy Mission to reach 600 families and 1800 people with a disability and leprosydirectly and provides a new opportunity for these people to become self-reliant. Moreover, LeprosyMission Bangladesh aims to reach 800 local leaders and influential individuals to get them involved inaiding the most vulnerable.
The project is funded with a $123,000 donation, which was realized by MissionInvest in November 2020.
‘There has been effective collaboration and coordination with MissionInvest throughout the entirefunding process. This was experienced as highly positive by us as Leprosy Mission as well as our partnersin the field. The recommendations and questions of Wim have helped to develop a better vision of theproject, its aims, and its approach. This will certainly contribute to achieving the desired impact on themost vulnerable.’ Klaas Evers, Leprosy Mission