This year has been a humbling reminder of our continued efforts to tackle leprosy as a global health problem. There have been some wonderful highs; times of positivity, humility and hope of something better to come. There have also been times of extreme lows, the devastation of the Bihar flooding and a continued rise in global leprosy numbers have made life exceptionally difficult for the world’s most vulnerable people.

At the beginning of the year, we were privileged to partner with Cantata Dramatica to bring together an evening of contemporary choral music, hosted by London’s St Stephen Walbrook church for World Leprosy Day. The evening was a success and a sold out crowd managed to raise £2,500 for our work!  

As the country sweltered in the heatwave during the summer, our Lepra team were busy at work across the country, speaking with community groups and churches, highlighting the continued problem of tackling leprosy. Some of our team from Colchester even abseiled down the Orbital in Stratford!

We said goodbye to some truly special colleagues, interns and volunteers and welcomed a whole cohort of fresh faces into Colchester and beyond. We have been delighted to welcome so many people interested in helping those affected by leprosy.

It was a marathon year for us all at Lepra, with former Communications, Marketing and Fundraising Assistant James running several marathons throughout the summer months to raise funds for Lepra. He wasn’t the only one, with 12 supporters running the London Marathon for us. It’s been a fantastically active year of fundraising and we’re excited for the year ahead.

In September, some of our team from Colchester and our colleagues in India and Bangladesh attended the international Leprosy Congress in Manila. It demonstrated a renewed interest globally in tackling leprosy as a global health concern and sparked new and exciting links between leprosy organisations across the globe.

‘One pound from you, we get two’ kicked off in October and was a successful reminder that people fundamentally want to help others. Our appeal this year focused on the pilot Mental Motivator’s project in Bangladesh. We raised £92,000, focusing on those that are living with serious mental health issues because of their leprosy diagnosis. Stuart Miles worked as our ambassador on this appeal, and we are thankful for our continued partnership with him and all that he does for Lepra.

Across the country, we hosted a wide range of exciting events and activities. Our flagship Duxford event, attended by the Duke of Gloucester, was only a small reminder of the power of fundraising. Our Female Focus Event, hosted in London, was well attended and highlighted the many talented, capable women who are trying to do their best for those that need them. It served as a reminder that gender should be no barrier to someone’s ability to make a change in the world.

In November, we held an ‘Evening with Hamish McRae’ in JM Finn offices in London. The evening was a roaring success and we gleamed some nuggets of wisdom from Hamish McRae in a time of great uncertainty.

The year was not without its controversies, as the World Health Organisation moved forward with its plans to implement its single-dose, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) strategy. Despite conflicting articles and a lack of peer-reviewed evidence, it seems this is a new facet of leprosy treatment that will have to be further investigated by Lepra in 2020.

Geoff Prescott, our Chief Executive said: “It’s [leprosy] a disease, and a group of people, that have been subjected to all sorts of superstition through the years; judgments, flavours of the months and wacky ideas.

“Lepra was founded on the principal of evidence led treatment. We do not support PEP. It does not really help the infectious people, it is not particularly effective for mildly infectious people and if you hand all this rifampicin out, which is not enough for proper treatment of leprosy or TB, you are greatly increasing the chance of resistance.

“However, as an evidence-led organisation, we remain open to further evidence and information.”

On a more positive note, Lepra signed two Memorandums of Understanding. The first of which was with three Rotary International Clubs in India, which will be a vital partnership for the continued mission to tackle leprosy as a health concern in India. Our partnership with Rotary will positively influence our reach and our ability to provide care and supplies to those most in need.

The John Bradburn Memorial Society signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Lepra in November and we have agreed to advise and oversee the care and treatment of those affected by leprosy in Zimbabwe.

Howard Zinn, historian, and playwright, said: “Give people what they need: food, medicine, clean air, pure water, trees, and pleasant homes to live in. Do not ask who deserves it. Every human being deserves it.”

Lepra has always and will continue to, put people above all else. In times of such global instability and uncertainty, it remains more important than ever, that we remain a voice for the people - a champion of positive change and strong values.

The year ahead will bring its own set of challenges and obstacles to overcome, but it will also bring hope and hope is a wonderful thing.

We would like to wish everyone a happy, healthy and safe festive period. Your fundraising efforts, donations, advice, support, time and belief has given us the opportunity to help more people than ever.

We look forward to the year ahead and we hope to see you all right there with us, tackling leprosy head-on. Together, we will beat leprosy.

Dhanyavaad                                                          

(Thank You)