New hope and community in Ethiopia

Tegegn Bogale Selegn was diagnosed with leprosy when he was 12. He remembers that people were so afraid of coming close, they would toss food at him.

Selegn was cured after seeking treatment in his mid-20s, but his hands had been permanently deformed. “Being healed didn’t mean life was much better. People didn’t talk to us, wouldn’t greet us,” he recalls. “We faced many risks in the shack we were living in. We always had to fear the hyenas at night.”

Habitat Ethiopia works with families affected by leprosy to improve their housing conditions and also to reintegrate them into the community. When construction on his Habitat house began, Selegn was always on site, running errands or carrying wood and water.

He soon discovered that he could plait rope and now sells strands at the local market.

I realized that even though these hands are disfigured, they are still hands, and I can still do something.
— Tegegn Bogale Selegn, Habitat homeowner

Habitat also conducted sessions with neighbors to help dispel mistaken information about leprosy, conversations that have had a noticeable impact.

“We have people over, neighbors invite us to their house, and we participate in all kinds of events,” Selegn says. “Now we do what other people do.”