Padma Venkataraman, a widely recognized Indian humanitarian, addressed students and faculty after spending two decades in the United Nations in Vienna. Representing the women of India and the effort rehabilitate thousands of leprosy victims, Venkataraman visited as part of her nationwide tour meant to spread word of her cause throughout hundreds of national forums.
Her visit to was made possible by the joint efforts of Ron Gunnell, a member of the Presidential Advisory Board, and the Office of International Affairs and Diplomacy.
Working on many different projects relating to leprosy victims as well as the women of India, Venkataraman serves as the Vice President of the Women’s India Association, President of the UN Women’s Guild, Vice President of the NGO Committee on Women and is a member of many other committees in the United Nations such as the Committee on the Disabled and Committee on Narcotics.
During her speech Venkataraman emphasized the importance of American volunteers to the rehabilitation effort. She stated that the biggest hurdle that needs to be jumped in the rehabilitation process is the low self esteem and reluctance of the lepers themselves, who are so marginalized that they believe themselves to be subhuman and destined to a life of poverty. However, the caring embraces and basic human contact that American volunteers provide help to slowly break down the emotional walls and let the lepers learn how to be self sufficient, productive members of society once more.
Interested volunteers can visit risingstaroutreach.com in order to join the rehabilitation efforts of Rising Star Outreach, one of the driving forces in the leprosy rehabilitation effort. The organization is run by Becky Douglas, an American homemaker, with the help of Padma Venkataraman.