Grant Report 2022: Empowering Felehansen, a People’s Organization in Colombia

In 2014, Felehansen, the National Federation of Associations of Persons Affected by Hansen’s Disease, was established to amplify the voices of those affected by Hansen’s disease in Colombia on a national scale. Comprising nine associations, the organization has actively addressed issues such as early case detection, peer support for new patients, self-care groups, and advocacy with the government. Sasakawa Health Foundation has been supporting a project to empower Felehansen since 2019.

In FY2022, Felehansen implemented a practical capacity-building training project with full support of DAHW Colombia. This initiative aimed to enhance management and leadership skills and ensure the organization’s sustainability as it prepared to operate independently following DAHW’s withdrawal from Latin America in 2023.

Four workshops were conducted at the management level, focusing on “Theory of Change,” “Georeferencing of Actors,” “Project Management,” and “Evaluation and Learning Model.” Approximately 20 board members and representatives from the nine associations participated in these workshops. After the training, leaders received ongoing guidance and support in small mentorship groups.

“Evaluation and Learning Model“ workshop, one of four workshops on capacity-building training, Bogotá, October 25-26, 2022
“Evaluation and Learning Model“ workshop, Valledupar, Cesar, November 2-3, 2022

To boost Felehansen’s visibility, the organization updated its website with news about events and internal activities. This included the visit of Sasakawa Health Foundation representatives, participation in a meeting of the Federico Lleras Acosta Institute (Colombia’s National Institute of Dermatology) in Bogotá, attendance at the International Symposium at the Vatican on Hansen’s Disease and at the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Workshops held in Bogotá facilitated the creation of videos showcasing Felehansen’s work and the empowerment of its leaders. These videos are shared at various events in which Felehansen members are involved.

Videos Produced:

  • “We are Felehansen”
  • “What we do at Felehansen”
  • “Felehansen Annual Meeting”
The Felehansen website is updated with news of important events, such as this symposium at the Vatican in January 2023.
Workshops led to the creation of videos showcasing Felehansen’s work.

The project supported Felehansen’s participation in events to connect with domestic stakeholders. Throughout 2022 and early 2023, members of the board of directors attended national events, including the formation of support networks in Santander, the World Leprosy Day commemoration in Bogotá featuring a “Body Map” exhibition, and a World Leprosy Day function at the Federico Lleras Acosta Institute.

The “Body Map” exhibition in Bogotá, attended by Felehansen leaders, helped raise community awareness of Hansen’s disease.

While Felehansen made strides in strengthening its management, challenges persisted. Only two of the nine affiliated organizations have qualified as non-profit organizations. Qualification involves submitting annual reports and maintaining financial records, and the goal is to enhance qualification to extend support to more organizations in the future.

In conclusion, the project has significantly contributed to strengthening Felehansen and its member associations, fostering autonomy, leadership, and collaboration. Felehansen now stands as a pivotal player in leprosy discussions, symbolizing positive transformation within the organization and the broader community.