Interview by Dr Jeanette Hyland with Miss Jean Raddon August 2004, Sydney, Australia
Brief Biography .
Jean Raddon is an English nurse who in 1952 joined a party of others interested in working in Nepal. They walked north from the Indian border to the Pokhra Valley. On that trek they encountered leprosy patients at one of the Nepal Government Leprosaria where armed guards oversaw patients and their families who were put there for life. They determined to do something for such people if possible. Jean tells of the beginning of the Green Pastures Leprosy Hospital in Pokhra, some stories of patients and medical staff working there in those days. Jean left Nepal to work in Australia in about 1972. Now at 82 years of age she lives in retirement in Australia.Transcription
This afternoon I am talking to Jean Raddon. I am very grateful to you Jean for talking to me. Basically what I want to ask you about is about when you first went to Nepal and how did it come about that the International Nepal Fellowship (INF) was involved in leprosy work.
Jean Well, I went to Nepal in 1952. I come from England of course, and I had been at Bible College and Pat O’ Hanlon and Hilda Steel came to talk about Nepal. That’s how I first heard about it. And I went and joined them in India. Then in November 1952 they were invited by the Government to go in and – actually it was rather thrilling, we were the first society to go in to Nepal but we had to walk in ‘cos there were no ‘planes in those days and we went up through Tansen. We came across a place; we couldn’t think what it was at first; we saw a lot of children and men, but there were armed guards there. And we found that it was the government leprosarium. Evidently they were put in there for life, family and all. And so there and then we stood there and we just prayed that God would help us to do something about that. Never dreaming that we would be able …Yes…
Jean So that was how I first touched leprosy.So were you there a night or two, did you stay …
Jean We just camped the night there. Actually I laugh ‘cause it took us eight days to walk from where we were in Nautanwa into Nepal where it is really – it should only take three days. I can’t imagine what we did.
Laughter - You must have dawdled along.
Jean Anyway we stayed there and Pat O’ Hanlon found out all she could about it. But we decided there and then with the help of God we would do something about leprosy patients. Evidently they – it always got me – they would turn leprosy patients out of the village but people with TB - coughing TB everywhere – they never turned them out of the village.There was not the same stigma attached…
Jean Mind you it would be several years, I’m not sure, I think it was 1954 that Eileen (Lodge) and Betty (Bailey) came out and they really felt that … they felt really burdened about leprosy and Hilda Steel was very interested too. So they got Green Pastures (Leprosy Hospital) started really.The Green Pastures site, was that a special place?
Jean Yes, It was – they were looking for a place for leprosy patients – there was this huge area opposite the air field in Pokhra and I don’t know whether we … I suppose we bought it … I don’t know whether we bought it or rented it … anyway they let it be known they were there and leprosy people began to come. They had huts built for them. I think they eventually got about 100 people in the leprosarium but you probably know that ‘cause you were probably there weren’t you?
Well I was there teaching some of the patients who weren’t quite so sick to look after others.
Jean Oh yes, when would that have been?
Jean Yes, well I can’t quite remember when they started but I think it was in the 1950s. And Hilda Steel was with them and got them going. And I suppose people heard about it because people began to come in.Did you look after people with leprosy yourself?
Jean Only a little bit, when I was out in a dispensary in Baglung we had a little place for leprosy patients and they had all been turned out of their homes. We had a hut where they stayed. But usually, if they were very bad we sent them in the Green Pastures.
We came across a lot of leprosy patients – it was quite interesting - when they came in to the dispensary – you would perhaps ask the man to take his shirt off he’d be very reluctant to … then you see his hands and know he had leprosy and he didn’t want you to know that.
But we sent quite a few of them home with medicine. Don’t ask me what the medicine was…
Laughter No, I won’t.
Jean I think they used to have to take a tablet a day didn’t they?And who taught you about leprosy -, who did you learn from about treating leprosy?
Jean Oh, I think we just picked it up from Betty and Eileen. We didn’t have any teaching at all.
Jean I suppose we must have learned from somebody because I know we gave them these tablets.
But we had some lovely stories, I remember a woman who had been in Green Pastures. You would probably have known her. They got to the point where they were able to go home. She went home and about six weeks after she had gone home six Brahmin men arrived and they wanted to know could they have some of the medicine – Tulki her name was – could they have some of the medicine that put the light into Tulki’s face. And of course she had come to know the Lord, so it wasn’t anything to do with the medicine.
Jean And of course I think of Lazarus, did you know Lazarus?
Jean Well he went in there determined – well he was a bank manager of course - he was quite a well-to-do fellow. Well he was determined that he would not become a Christian. And one little boy one day ran over to him and said ‘Look it is no good you going on like this, they are all praying for you over there. In the end he became a Christian and he changed his name to Lazarus because he said, ‘I feel as though I’ve been brought back from the dead. Very wonderful, really.
What other stories do you remember?
Jean Well I remember a man when were out trekking, on the hillside we saw these caves with people living in them. When we got a bit nearer we realised they were people with leprosy. One man there, he was in a terrible state really, he’d lost his eyebrows and his nose, he had terribly crooked fingers, you know, he was a terribly bad case. So we got him into Green Pastures – well I didn’t see him for a couple of years. Then one day the little woman who did our cooking came running and said ‘There’s a new man here wants to see you.’ I went out, and you know it was very lovely, he’d got new eyebrows, a new nose, he’d had his hands fixed in Green Pastures. But something else had happened ‘cause he’d come to know the Lord. He stayed with us for a few days, but he wanted to go back to his village because he wanted to share all that had happened. But I believe he died of rabies a few years later. Still it was wonderful.
He was a new man as you say. So the stigma was pretty horrific…
Jean Oh very … and I think of … her father, they were high caste Brahmins, and her father was in Green Pastures … then they found that his daughter had it. They turned her out of the village. She came to us, we got her into Green Pastures. Green Pastures was a wonderful place really and the Mission to Lepers helped us a lot with money, ‘cause they didn’t have anything to pay … they were absolutely destitute.
I can see Green Pastures when it first started. They just had the one hut. It was quite interesting to see how it developed. Hilda Steel was very good too.So the English nurses who were there, they lived in the same conditions as the patients?
Jean Yes, the same. In thatched roofed huts. They were quite comfortable really. You would have lived in one too?
Yes, good environment, keep you cool.
Jean I don’t really know very much about leprosy really. I know it was a tremendous encouragement to men and women who came into Green Pastures and to those I met out in the villages. But INF is doing such a lot. You must know about that?
It changed so much over the years; specially when INF took up the challenge of becoming part of the nation program. That was when I joined the leprosy program to be the trainer and to train the local young men to be the paramedical workers. Before that there were only probably about two or three places right across the west of Nepal where you could get leprosy treatment, but year by year we added district after district and every health post. All the health posts provided the treatment, and the paramedical workers did their rounds each month, and the patients could get their treatment nearby.
Jean The treatment has changed quite a bit now hasn’t it?Now, those people don’t have to take it for life …
Jean I know it was funny… remember Jean Watson … she did quite a bit of surgery down there and when they lost their noses … you know how the Brahmins always have big noses … So she’s say to these low caste people, ‘Would you like to have a Brahmin nose?’ They always wanted to have the flat nose like they always had. It was wonderful the surgery that Jean was able to do; doing the hands, the legs, and particularly I think of the eyebrows, when she would take a little bit of the scalp from behind the ears, and they used to let their eyebrows grow. They liked having eyebrows so much, Betty was always telling them to cut their eyebrows.When you look back on that, how does it seem as a ministry? When you look back on what happened how do you feel about it?
Jean It was one of the most wonderful things that ever happened. Think of all those people, ostracised by their families, turned out of their villages, and when we saw those people living in caves, we only got that one man in the Green Pastures, I don’t know, but there were several people living in caves really, almost like animals.Did their village families feed them at all, did they leave food outside…
Jean No, no. I don’t quite know how they managed… no they usen’t to. I don’t know whether they were able to work at all?
I remember the girl … you would know her… I can’t remember her name … that’s my age … but she did very well at Green Pastures. She learned to read and write, she came to Pokhra and worked in the hospital. You know it was so wonderful to be able to do that for people. And I think it is still wonderful what they do… I think there is still quite a bit of ostracism against leprosy. Not so much as there was, I think.
And over the years did many people come … like experts … come from overseas to help, to advise about leprosy care, things like that?
Jean I don’t think so, I think we had one of two doctors came out to help with the surgery. I don’t know about that. I don’t know how Betty and Eileen really learned about leprosy. They must have read it up I suppose because they knew a lot about it. But you know about it too, did you read it up?
I had a course at Karigiri in South India.
Jean Oh, well I don’t think they did. But Jean did. Karigiri is where Jean went. So she knew quite a lot about it.
I just used to feel so sorry, particularly for the women because they would have nothing, absolutely nothing. …
I think I really enjoyed going down to Green Pastures perhaps one week and seeing people, particularly with walking disabilities and going down perhaps a month later after they had been operated on and seeing them walking and seeing their gratefulness. I always remember one man who came into Green Pastures and after he had been there a week, he said, “I feel as though I’ve come into heaven.’ Kindness and love and caring and being touched.
I think perhaps the government does more for leprosy now doesn’t it?
Yes, since the 1970s that is what has been going on.
Jean Nepal is pretty terrible now. I can’t understand why the government wants to get rid of the missionaries because those doctors could do what nobody else would do in Nepal. I think INF is training Nepalis to take over.
Index of interview - Jean Raddon – Tape counter 0 – 338.
When she first went to Nepal in 1952 after she had heard a talk about Nepal at Bible College. She joined those who had spoken in India then they moved into Nepal in November 1952. The International Nepal Fellowship was the first society to go into Nepal. They walked in. They took 8 days to walk – should take three!
Just beyond Tansen came across a place with armed guards. It was the Government Leprosarium. Patients were sent there for life with family and all.
Prayed that they would be able to do something about that. While there they found out all they could about the Leprosarium. The villagers in those days turned out leprosy, but not TB patients.
1954 others came out to Nepal from England. They were interested in leprosy and got Green Pastures started, they built the hospital. People heard about it patients began to come in.
Jean looked after leprosy patients when she was working in the clinic at Baglung. She remembers some patients were reluctant to be examined in the clinic. They were the people with leprosy markings and deformity. The clinic sisters sent some home with medicine and some to Green Pastures hospital for further care or surgery.
Learning about leprosy - ‘just picked it up’.
Stories: - A woman went home and others came wanting the medicine that put the light in her face. Lazarus, a young Brahmin man and another who became a new man.
104 - Stigma was bad.
Green Pastures - Mission to Lepers (now The Leprosy Mission) helped with money. The GP hospital began with one hut. Nurses lived in the thatched huts too, just like the patients.
130 - Jeanette and INF work and adding treatment centres near the homes of patients.
Surgery - Jean Watson. She operated on noses, hands and legs, eyebrows.
155 - Looking back – one of the most wonderful things that happened – all those ostracised people who were not even fed by their villagers. It was wonderful to be able to do that for people. One of the girls (patients) did well and eventually worked in the hospital.
Betty Bailey and Eileen Lodge had some training and Jean Watson went to Karigiri.
Jean used to feel so sorry for the women – they would have nothing.
194 – She enjoyed going to GP and seeing people and their progress – and their gratitude.
212 - One man said, ‘I feel as though I have come into heaven’.
Other subjects mentioned.
218 - came to Australia settling into a different kind of life. In Nepal all her fellow workers all English. She still keeps in touch with Betty Wall – sends her tapes. Not in touch with Nepali friends but has some Nepali friends here in Australia.
Jean is now 82.
264 – She was asked to come to Australia to start ‘Bible Study Fellowship’ and for women in the outback ‘Know Your Bible’. Now there are 2,400 classes in Australia and they work in 44 other countries.
When both she and Mary Miller, her companion, were retired they had a bus called “Phoebe” and for 6 years travelled round the outback, held classes, and sold thousands of books.
She has been back to Nepal a couple of times. Story of taxi ride. When someone is going to Nepal she sends a letter and present for Premi – now 90.
338 – recording ends.