Children’s book on leprosy used as teaching tool

Mia Hadrill with a copy of the book, entitled Bela. Picture: contributed
Mia Hadrill with a copy of the book, entitled Bela. Picture: contributed
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A CHILDREN’S book tackling the stigma of leprosy by two Edinburgh graduates is being used as a teaching tool for youngsters across Scotland.

Mia Hadrill, 24, penned the story after carrying out research at a leprosy ­hospital in India for her social ­anthropology degree.

The Edinburgh University graduate spent a month ­visiting colonies, native ­healers, priests, local doctors and nurses recording the ­stories of leprosy patients.

Moved by their accounts, she took an internship with The Leprosy Mission Scotland (TLMS) and wrote Bela.

“I felt I was collecting these incredibly emotional life stories of abandonment, through tears much of the time,” she said.

“Others had used leprosy as a means to break through class systems and social hierarchies and used being isolated or ostracised to go forward and achieve things.

“I wanted to create something that would explain ­leprosy and create a resource that could be used within schools across Scotland.”

Mia wanted to use her experiences to dispel some of the myths about the disease and show people that it is curable, often has no symptoms, is not easily communicable and that 95 per cent of people are ­naturally immune.

The story is centred around a cheeky little girl called Bela and the social – as well as medical – challenges she faces when diagnosed with leprosy.

She enlisted the help of illustrator Jessica Kettle, 24, from Edinburgh College of Art, and the pair spent a year creating the book, which was financed through crowd funding.

Jessica said: “I thought it sounded a bit ridiculous at first and then I thought it would be a challenge to do something for children on a difficult subject. I’m really proud of what we came up with and it’s nice to do something that helps a ­charity.”

The book is now being used as part of its education programme by TLMS during visits to schools and children’s groups across Scotland. 
Mia added: “I’ve been told it fits in to the curriculum really well. I am not surprised by the baffled looks I get about being an author of a children’s book on leprosy. I get asked if my limbs are going to drop off and I’ve heard every leprosy joke going.”

Copies of the book are on sale at the charity’s shop in Stirling with all proceeds going to various leprosy projects.

Jamie McIntosh, fundraising manager, said: “It has been fantastic in terms of helping us to reach out to a new audience, in particular to young children. Leprosy is very much a forgotten disease but the book has done a great job in simplifying the message and making children, and even the parents or grandparents reading it to them, understand what it is like to have leprosy.”