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Nuns Help Poor And Sick With Herbal Medicine


October 29 2008

Subeda Begum, 36, was seriously ill, but the Muslim woman was so poor she could not afford treatment at any of the government or private hospitals, about 10 in all, in Mymensingh.

Eventually, she lost hope of being cured, but her suffering came to an end after she met a group of Catholic nuns, who helped her with herbal medicine.

"I am now happy and living a healthy life, thanks to the treatment by the nuns," Begum told UCA News after several months on the herbal regime. "I am so grateful to them!"

Salesian Sisters of Mary Immaculate (SSMI), stationed at Biroidakuni parish in Mymensingh, 150 kilometers northeast of Dhaka, have provided health care for two years to poor and other sick people in the area.

Three SSMI nuns originally received basic training in herbal medicine at the Mymensingh local governmental headquarters, where a foreign doctor taught them. Now the nuns produce own herbal medicines, which they keep stored in bottles at Mary Immaculate Dispensary, which bears the same name as their convent, founded in 1931.

They also serve people in the area in other ways, such as by educating children and empowering women.

Day by day, the demand for their homemade herbal medicine is increasing, Sister L.C. Rose, director of the dispensary, said in a recent interview.

"When I came here for the first time a few years back, I found many people couldn´t buy medicine because of poverty, and it shocked me," the SSMI nun said. "I, along with two fellow sisters, decided to do something for them."

After finishing their training, the three nuns planted about 60 herbal plants and trees around the convent.

"We get almost all herbal supplies from our convent," Sister Rose said. "People come to us for medicine, and they say it is very effective."

The nuns have been providing herbal medicine for diarrhea, hepatitis, dysentery, coughing, piles and uterine ailments.

Sister Rose said patients can come to their dispensary free of charge, and pay only for the medicine. But even this is free for poor patients who cannot afford to pay for it, let alone buy expensive pharmaceutical medicine.

In addition to the medical care, the nuns counsel people with family problems and financial troubles. Their goal is to help people develop and become empowered.

Sufia Begum, 60, also a Muslim, says she had benefited from the sisters´ care.

"The nuns provide medicine almost free of charge, and it helps the poor and sick people like me a lot," she told UCA News.

"And when my husband divorced me, the nuns counseled me, helping me to forgive him," she added. "They gave me advice so I could maintain my family with five daughters."