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Stratford social worker's charity to help leper colonies in Nigeria

PUBLISHED: 13:06 03 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:06 03 March 2015

Margaret Eniola with a patient in Nigeria

Margaret Eniola with a patient in Nigeria

Archant

A social worker haunted by her childhood memories of leprosy quit her job to start a charity aiming to increase the living standards of people affected by the disease.

Margaret Eniola, 56, took a huge risk when she decided to leave her job as a senior social worker in 2012 to start her own organisation dedicated to leprosy sufferers in Nigeria.

Mum-of-one Margaret now makes five annual trips to Nigeria as part of her self-built charity, Leprosy Outreach.

“It is just something I had to do,” she explained. “It was something that affected me quite a lot, I saw a lot of people from when I was younger suffering with leprosy and it was really hard to look at.

“There just didn’t seem to be enough help for leper colonies and I always knew that I wanted to do something to help these sufferers.”

Margaret’s son, Justin Eniola, 22, said that he knew his mum was sympathetic to the issue but had no idea how much it affected her.

“To get up, leave your job and just start a charity like that isn’t easy and she really is dedicated to what she does,” he said.

Margaret now spends her time developing the charity from her home in Stratford High Street while taking odd jobs.

Since starting the charity, Margaret had dedicated her time to providing essential everyday care to two leper colonies, in Abeokuta Ogun State and Oji River, Enugu State.

Margaret described how her first trip in 2012 was not recieved as well as she hoped.

She said: “A big issue with leper colonies is people becoming marginalised because of the stigma surrounding the disease.

“When I first went over there, it wasn’t the most positive reception. People were weary because a number of people had visited these colonies before, promising to help but nothing came of it.”

“I assured them I was there to help. I just wanted to improve their standard of living. I was in a position where I could help others and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Margaret is able to provide essential everyday care during her visits through money she raises by fundraising in the UK.

“We’ve donated money to a local school, we also built new toilets for one of the colonies, because leprosy is a link between disease and poverty and one of our aims is to create a healthy environment,” she said.

Margaret will be making her next visit to Nigeria in April and in the mean time hopes to raise awareness around the disease.

For more information about the charity, visit leprosy-outreach.org

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