Blessing is a hip young woman from the capital of Lagos: 28 years old, a trendy hair style, big earrings and a shy but radiant smile.
Her life was going well. Blessing had a husband, a baby boy and a great job as a hairdresser: until the day when she found strange spots on her skin. A traditional healer told her to stop eating beans, but, in the end, she was diagnosed with leprosy. Damien Foundation arranged a year's treatment for Blessing. She is beating the disease, but it has ravaged her life in the meantime. “My husband has left me and they won't let me do my job: nobody wants their head to be handled by a person who once had leprosy.” The tears roll down her beautiful face. “And I'm terrified that my six-year-old son might get it too.”
The nurse at the Yaba Leprosy Clinic reassures her. That won't happen. Blessing is also receiving steroids and therapy to undo the 'snakeskin' effect on her legs. Soon, all traces of the disease will have gone and she will be able to build a new social life. “Everything will be okay”, promises the nurse. Blessing fights back the tears and laughs, but with a little guardedness.
TEXTS: Wendy Huyghe
PHOTOS: Tim Dirven @T.Dirven for Damien Foundation