By the age of 13, Shirina Akter Rupa had already endured far more suffering than her age would suggest. The neglected girl was also found to have leprosy at the age of 9. This did not come as a surprise to the family, as Shirina's father, two sisters and a brother had also been affected by the disease. The child herself recognised her own illness by noticing a numb spot on her arm. She had asked her father to take her to the Lepramisation Hospital in Nilfamari, Bangladesh.

Shirina had to stay in hospital for a relatively long time to recover her general health in addition to her treatment. She was greatly helped by the care and love of her family and hospital staff.

When he returned to his former school, his paralysed hand made his teachers and fellow students wonder where he had been. In good faith, he told me honestly that he was in a leprosy hospital.

From then on, no one wanted to sit next to him or play with him. One of the teachers in the classroom put him at the back of the room, as far away from the others as possible.

To make matters worse, his father died of cancer shortly afterwards. But Shirina is a very strong girl. Thanks to her perseverance, the stigma she faced at school has been alleviated. The Leprosy Mission has also been to Shirina's school in her village to give presentations and playful educational activities to convince young people and adults that leprosy is nothing to be afraid of and that people with leprosy should not be excluded.

Shirina still bears one of the visible effects of leprosy: one of her hands is paralysed. She has great difficulty milking the cows and doing the housework alongside her mother. However, the leprosy hospital in Nilfamar will perform the operation so that Shirina will not even remember her illness!

Shirina's dream is to study and become a doctor. She wants to heal others as they were healed. It is this hope that will gold-plate her future.

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