Tony Whitley – “our man in Vanuatu” – receiving his British Empire Medal from the Princess Royal.
Tony Whitley (and his family) have taken care of the needs of leprosy patients in Vanuatu for the past 12 years. His initiative, drive and enthusiasm have enabled him to build a network of volunteers all over the country and this is the model on which we try to base our work in a number of other countries.
Vanuatu is a country consisting of a great many different islands (many of which have widely varying geography and cultures). Nearly every main island has current and former leprosy patients who need your help, and the job of co-ordinating that help is no easy task.
In the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Tony was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to education and the community in Vanuatu.
Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, made a special visit to Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, to present Tony with his medal. She spent a long time talking with Tony about his life and work in Santo, Vanuatu and about the work of the Pacific Leprosy Foundation.
We also work in New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands.
Isaac is disabled by polio and leprosy and used to rely on a hand pedalled wheel chair to get him up and down the steep road from his home to Luganville, the local town. Now he has this disability scooter his life has been transformed and he has been appointed President of the local disabled association. His wife Verongi helps Tony with the work of the Foundation.
When Isaac got his disability scooter, it was his idea for his old wheelchair to be given to another patient. Here, Vearu receives her new wheelchair which will give her much more independence. She struggles to walk as she suffers from drop foot as a result of leprosy. Behind her are the driver and Isaac’s wife, Verongi.
Emrere had no home to call her own so this little house was built for her in her village in Santo – she has the most brightly coloured house in the village!
Emrere takes great pleasure in making up her new bed in her beautiful little house.
Japhet had to travel to Twomey Hospital in Fiji to be fitted with a prosthetic leg as there is no prosthetics technician or workshop in Vanuatu. Here he shows it off following a re-fit at the hospital in Santo.
Regular visits to Vanuatu by our consultant, Dr Roland Farrugia, ensure that the leprosy patients get continuing care for their disabilities. Sadly, this patient – Japhet – had to have his left leg amputated because of serious ulcers which threatened his overall health. (See picture on left)