My internship

Policies, policies, and more policies. Policies dominate my earliest memories of my Lepra internship, namely the close to one and a half hours I spent reading and signing them all. Luckily I had my supervisor Sara-Jane Smith there to assist me, and we managed to get through them all in due time.

I guess this memory is a good metaphor for my short internship here at Lepra. From start to finish, I’ve constantly been thrown into new and unknown situations. Still only being a high school student, everything at Lepra was new, exciting, and maybe a bit scary as well. Thankfully I had the guidance of my supervisor, as well as all the other Lepra employees, and with their help I learned a lot.

Not only have I had the pleasure to be thrown into unknown situations and helping the cause, I’ve also learned so much about Leprosy and the important factors around dealing with it. The truth is that the problem is far more intricate than just providing a cure for those affected by leprosy. The disease, even after being cured, has a very large impact on the lives of its patients.

I found it great to hear that Lepra is a leader in addressing the mental health issues that come with the disease. The isolation and prejudice (former) leprosy and lymphatic filariasis (LF) patients suffer, combined often with poor physical health, can lead to a multitude of mental health diseases. This was something I hadn’t considered when thinking about leprosy before the internship, but it’s good to hear that Lepra addresses all factors of the disease, and that this factor is becoming more important in the world of leprosy organisations.

Another thing that really touched me were all the stories from those affected by leprosy. While drafting up posts for social media, I had the chance to read many of these stories. Some can be very sad, people who have lost almost everything they hold dear due to the disease and people that will have to live with a disability forever. However some are incredibly inspiring; the ones that were able to be diagnosed and treated on time, and the ones who live on with their disability and are now helping others.

From something simple and important such as maintaining good back posture while sitting at a desk, to the intricacies of daily-office life, I’ve had the pleasure of learning a lot this internship. Whether it’s from presentations, or from the chance to work myself, Lepra gave me the opportunity to absorb a lot of knowledge.

I’ve learned how an organisation functions, with its different elements and chains of command, and how it works together. I’ve had the pleasure of being taught so much about Lepra’s work and leprosy itself, as well as how an organisation that relies on donations functions. The fact that I also contributed myself to the organisation is an added bonus.

One of the reasons why I came to Lepra was in regard to my study choice. In a little less than a year from now, I’ll have to choose what I wish to study at one of many universities. Some studies that I’ve looked into are Social Geography and Development Sociology. Both of these studies match very well with a development aid organisation such as Lepra, so being here at Lepra gave me a good look at the practical application of many of the subjects taught in those studies.

I’ve definitely enjoyed my time here at Lepra, and my interest in Social Geography and Development Sociology has only grown by seeing parts of it applied here at Lepra. I’m not certain of what I want to study yet, but both aforementioned studies are high on the list, and that is partly thanks to Lepra.

I want to thank everyone at Lepra for giving me an amazing internship. This organisation is doing great work, and I’m proud to have contributed to it. I’ll certainly be educating my friends on leprosy and LF. 

Siebren de Vries

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