A Moray woman is travelling to Africa on a mission to combat superstitions that epilepsy is a sign of demonic possession.
Tara Engelmann will fly to Malawi tomorrow, where people afflicted with the neurological condition face being shunned by society.
The mum-of-two will spend three weeks helping dozens of Africans in impoverished rural villages by spreading awareness of what causes epileptic fits.
The 47-year-old is preparing herself for a drastic change from her usual day-to-day routine as an epilepsy field worker with the Quarriers charity in Forres.
She will spend the next three weeks in a remote, hilly area blighted by malnutrition and poor health, which is accessible only by dirt roads.
Ms Engelmann said: “There is a lack of understanding about what epilepsy is, a lot of people there still believe it is contagious so sufferers can be excluded from their community.
“Children who suffer seizures can be forced to leave school, because teachers haven’t been trained in how to deal with them.
“Sometimes the chiefs there don’t understand epilepsy and say everybody should be out farming – even if that increases the risk of people injuring themselves in a fit.
“There’s a lot of suspicion out there too, and I’m trying to explain that sufferers have not been possessed by a demon.”
Ms Engelmann will meet local chiefs during her awareness-raising trip, and speak with teachers and carers about how to treat epilepsy.
She will try to set up support groups for sufferers, and explain how the condition can be managed through medication.
The volunteer first visited Malawi last November, and said she was looking forward to strengthening the bonds she made then.
She added: “I’ve been on missions to several parts of Africa, but this is the first time I’ve gone back to the same place and I’m looking forward to building deeper relationships with people I met last time.”
Ms Engelmann’s trip is being organised by the Kerusso Trust, an Aberdeen-based Christian mission charity which places a special emphasis on helping the people of Malawi.
The group’s mission director, Jonathan Groves, said: “Ms Engelmann has a great heart for the poor and vulnerable.
“It is fantastic that she can share her skills and experience to support some of the most marginalised people in Malawi.”