By Fiachra Brennan
Sumanahalli, meaning the Village of People of Good Heart, is an organisation based in Bangalore, India. Their project offers integrated social, educational, and healthcare supports to the most marginalised and stigmatised groups in society. Their work particularly supports people living with the after effects of leprosy. Discrimination and social exclusion are widespread problems experienced by leprosy survivors, as they are treated as the lowest of the low in India.
Sumanahalli seek to help integrate these people into mainstream society, with a range of holistic supports including medical care, the provision of sheltered accommodation, and skills training and employment opportunities. The organisation has established manufacturing units, producing items such as candles, eco-friendly shopping bags, and leather garments, allowing the survivors to earn a decent living in a safe and welcoming environment. These activities also generate an income for the organisation and promote their work within the broader community. Clients include the state government and several of the large technology companies based in Bangalore.
Accommodation has been developed both within the Sumanahalli campus and at suitable sites out in the community. This sheltered housing model supports people who would have little chance of securing a tenancy in the private rental market, as a direct result of stigma and discrimination.
Sumanahalli also provide on-site residential care, primarily for those who have developed a range of disabilities and health issues due to their previous leprosy diagnosis. The Ava Maria centre offers on-site medical and social care, providing a decent quality of live for people.
SERVE and Sumanahalli have been working together in partnership since 2005. SERVE have placed over 20 volunteers and supported a range of initiatives, with the support of institutional donors such as Misean Cara. These include the development of sheltered housing in the community, the renovation of existing housing on site, and the construction of the Ava Maria recreational hall, that is used for a variety of activities including garment making and rehabilitative care. SERVE’s support has enabled Sumanahalli to sustain their work and offer new and innovative opportunities to a very marginalised group of people.