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A WORD OF COMFORT: Belgium Queen Paola greeting leprosy patients at the Holy Family Hansenorium near Tiruchi on Tuesday.
A WORD OF COMFORT: Belgium Queen Paola greeting leprosy patients at the Holy Family Hansenorium near Tiruchi on Tuesday.

S. Ganesan

The guest from Belgium interacts with leprosy, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS patients

TIRUCHI: Queen Paola of Belgium, on a State visit to India along with King Albert II, on Tuesday visited Holy Family Hansenorium (HFH), a community care centre for leprosy, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS patients.

The Queen, a major donor, spent over an hour and a half on the campus, interacting with patients. She enquired about their health, family, social background and the progress of recovery and rehabilitation.

Many of the patients have had their deformities corrected surgically and are on the road to rehabilitation. Some are employed on the campus.

HFH is one of the non-governmental organisations in India supported by THE Damien Foundation India Trust, a subsidiary of THE Damien Foundation, Belgium. The origin of the foundation is traced to 1953 when King Leopold III, impressed with a timely gift of jute bags from India when Belgium was ravaged by floods, asked his advisers to explore ways to reciprocate with a service of lasting impact in India.

An eminent leprologist, Hemerijckx, then working in Congo, was requested to do the needful.

He and Claire Vellut, a Belgian woman, determined to serve the leprosy affected, started a project AT Polambakkam near Chennai. The friendship has since grown stronger and the foundation now supports 54 projects across eight States in India.

P. Krishnamurthy, secretary, Damien Foundation India Trust, Sr. Rita Adaikalam, project director, HFH, and others explained the activities of the centre to the Queen.

Despite a tight schedule, the Queen found time for a group photo session with children of the patients, accommodated in a hostel on the campus.

“You are doing a wonderful work. I am very impressed,” she told the HFH staff.

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