New Photo Exhibition, Out of the Darkness, Tells Poignant Tales of the Impact of Habitat for Humanity on the Lives of Villagers in Southern China Affected by Leprosy
BANGKOK, March 27, 2007 – A new photo exhibition “Out of the Darkness” by photojournalist Mikel Flamm opens on Friday at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok.
The exhibition illustrates a series of communities in southern China whose residents’ lives have been blighted by leprosy. It shows how the lives of the villagers, most of them elderly, have improved since Habitat for Humanity and its partner organizations helped build simple, decent homes in the communities.
A dreaded disease among the ancient civilizations of Egypt, India and China, leprosy still carries a stigma in the present age. Although 14 million leprosy patients have been cured over the past 20 years, there were still nearly 220,000 new cases of leprosy detected at the beginning of 2006 (World Health Organization’s statistics). Even after leprosy-affected people are cured, the physical and emotional scars remain. This is especially so when they are ostracized by their own family and neighbors.
The first project Habitat for Humanity worked on was in Xiang Hai An Leprosy Rehabilitation Village, 72 kilometers from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province in southwestern China. Over 200 Habitat for Humanity volunteers helped build 13 new homes and renovated 16 existing ones.
The presence of the volunteers did more than changes the physical look of the community. “We never wish for anyone to feel sorry for us,” said one villager, 71-year-old Lu Xianwen. “We live here as a family now. For years we all felt we had nowhere else to go…Now we know there are people who do care for us.”
To date, Habitat projects have helped house nearly 180 leprosy-affected people in eight leprosy rehabilitation villages in China, mostly in Yunnan, but also in the neighboring provinces of Guangxi and Guangdong.
As in China, Habitat’s work around the world and here in Thailand has demonstrated that a safe and decent home lays an essential foundation that will help individuals and families break the cycle of poverty and transform their lives. It is a critical step towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals that seek to eradicate extreme poverty.
Time: 10 am to 10 pm
Date: Friday, March 30, 2 007 to April 27, 2007
Venue: Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailan, Penthouse, Maneeya Center Building. 518/5 Ploenchit (connected to BTS Skytrain Chitlom Station, Patumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand
More than half a century ago, people affected by leprosy in China had to leave their own communities to live in remote areas in the mountains or caves. Isolated, starving and ridiculed, they had little access to medical services and life was a day-to-day struggle.
By the early 1960s, the Chinese government started to address the problems. Medical teams were sent to the remote leprosy rehabilitation villages. The teams provided care and medicines, and monitored the health of villagers. Houses were built and clinics set up for treatment.
Although leprosy affected people were allowed to return home once they were cured, few were welcomed by their families or communities. They had no choice, but to remain in the leprosy rehabilitation villages.
About Mikel Flamm
California-native Mikel Flamm has been based in Bangkok, Thailand, since 1990. As a photojournalist, he covered the Thai-Cambodia border during the refugee situation in the 1990s as well as conflicts along the border. His worked focuses on women and children, AIDS, poverty, humanitarian issues and disaster response within Southeast and South Asia.
Flamm has worked on assignments for the United Nations, CARE, Discovery Channel, Associated Press, Newsweek, World Vision International, Getty Images, Gamma Liaison, Habitat for Humanity International and for various publications in the United States, Asia and Europe.
About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is a global non-governmental organization that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in the USA in 1976, Habitat has built more than 220,000 houses in dozens of countries, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than one million people with homes they helped build and which they have paid for with affordable, non-profit loans.