Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Forgotten Sufferers

I happen to visit Elizabeth Wong's blog recently and read her posting Dec 8 & 9 : Valley of Hope regarding an event this weekend to raise awareness of the Sungei Buloh Leprosy Settlement in Selangor and I quote :

Title: “I Love Valley of Hope” Carnival

Date: 8 - 9 December 2007 (Saturday & Sunday)

Title: “I Love Valley of Hope” Carnival

Venue: Dewan Orang Ramai, Sg. Buloh Leprosy Settlement

Initiated by: Sungai Buloh Settlement Council Organiser : Save Valley of Hope Solidarity Group

Co-organiser: KLSCAH Youth Section, SUARAM, Lost Generation Space Supportive Media: Photo Creator Magazine, Ai FM

VISION: To preserve Sg Buloh Leprosy Settlement as a heritage for mankind


1. Firmly acknowledge the immortality right of living of the lepers patients in Sg Buloh Leprosy Settlement.

2. Introduce the Valley of Hope, educate and create awareness among the public regarding the importance of preserving heritage.

3. Assemble the support and strength of all groups, in corroboration of saving and preserving the Sg Buloh Leprosy Settlement as National Heritage.

Day 1 : 8 Dec 07 (Saturday)

*10am-6pm Photo, Leprosy Settlement History and Flora Exhibition

*9am -12pm Drawing Competition

*1pm -2pm Opening Ceremony

*10am -1pm Movies/Documentaries Sharing

* 2pm-5pm Forum: The Value of Preserving Heritage (Mandarin)

2 days 1 night “I Love Valley of Hope” Youth Camp

Day 2 : 9 Dec 07 (Sunday)

8am-12pm Family Day & Exposure Trip

10am-3pm Photo, Leprosy Settlement History and Flora Exhibition

10am-12pm Movies/Documentaries Sharing

12pm-3pm Cultural Stage Performances

This reminded me of a series of black and white photographs I took entitled Forgotten Sufferers when I visited the centre back in 1999 which formed the topic of submission for the W E Smith Grant for documentary photography, which unfortunately wasn't chosen. However, this series of photographs sparked my enthusiasm and venture into documentary and street photography which led me to publish my first book, Outside Looking In : Kuala Lumpur in 2000.

I photographed the living conditions, the activities and the inmates there during my visit and gotten to know a few of them. It brought me closer to understanding the condition of leprosy and the stigma it still has on sufferers although they are completely cured but disfigured. I learnt that the government funds the operation of the settlement, although the living conditions are pretty dire and basic, the inmates are self-sufficient due to generous donations from the public and social organisations.

Many inmates also grow fruit, vegetables and plant seedlings to supply the local garden centres, earning a small amount of income. Visitors are few save for relations and family members although this particular settlement is a Christian one, there are regular visiting clergy. There is a Muslim settlement adjacent I understand.

The settlement is quite large and set in a clearing which is green and lush with spectacular views of the surrounding hills. It has a local coffee shop where inmates hang out and a small sundry store also. A few inmates get around the area by motorbike or bicycles as they suffer from mobility problems although most suffer from facial and hand disfigurement.

I wish the settlement well and hope the event this weekend will raise the profile and awareness and preservation of this historical settlement and enable more public visits.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this post really makes me feel for them