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Discrimination against former leprosy patients still often occurs in our society, and makes it difficult for them to find jobs.

The stigma and disgust by the disease transmission causes them to live in one area: Sitanala Village, located behind RS Sitanala, a hospital for leprosy patients in the satellite city of Tangerang.

However, this community faces serious problems. Most of them don’t have a proper job due to the discrimination. In the Neighborhood Unit 1 (RT 01), for instance, most of them work as beggars, sweepers, laundry workers or are unemployed.

Ironically, the land where they live is government land, meaning that at anytime they could be evicted from their land.

Many social projects have been tried, but most were unsustainable. To help them does not only mean providing them with basic foods or other things. We should give them entrepreneurship skills and opportunities to build their independent character.

A group of students from the University of Indonesia have tried to do this. The students joined up with the Indonesia Leadership Program (ILP), a program for outstanding students, and organized the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative (SEI) project in Sitanala Village.

They provide training for clothes-making, particularly beaded jilbab, a headscarf for Muslim women, to ladies in Sitanala Village, and help them develop their own business.

For three months, the students have accompanied the former patients to improve their creativity and competence. After the completion of the program, the people are supposed to be able to run their business independently.

This program is an exemplary program for youth who want to contribute to the marginal people.

Nothing is more valuable than our concern to empower them to be more independent.

Alfi Syahriyani
Depok, West Java