Volunteer's Week - Volunteering with Lepra Volunteer's Week 1st-7th June 2019 This week is National Volunteer's Week, an important chance for Lepra to recognise the achievements, contributions and value that volunteers bring to our fight against leprosy and lymphatic filariasis (LF) From Trustees to Field Workers and Interns, our volunteers all play a crucial role in helping people affected by these diseases and improving their futures. Molly, who recently interned with us at our Colchester offices speaks about her experience of volunteering with Lepra. Molly's Story After finishing my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science I knew I wanted to pursue a career in public health and epidemiology, particularly in the area of neglected tropical disease. Through researching the neglected tropical disease network I was able to find Lepra and applied for a voluntary internship with them. Leprosy is a particularly interesting disease as despite the focused global research on Mycobacterium leprae a number of epidemiological features are still poorly understood. The organism multiplies very slowly, with the incubation period lasting several years. Symptoms can cause severe disability and take up to 20 years or more to develop after the initial onset of infection. Through my internship, I was able to gain experience and a real insight into NGOs, international charities and the ongoing battle against leprosy. By working with both the fundraising and programmes teams of Lepra I was able to build my skills and knowledge. I was able to work on editing blog posts, undertaking research and collating fundraising information. One of the many highlights of my time working at Lepra was being invited down to London to conduct an interview for International Women’s Day with feminist activist Rukmini Rao. I was able to ask Rukmini about the disproportionate effect of leprosy on women and what could be done to decrease this. Being given the opportunity to interview someone with such an extensive career in activism was inspiring and is something I will treasure for a long time. I also undertook a project within the Public Health Department of Lepra, working alongside their epidemiologist to look at active case finding in India between 1999-2005. I worked to examine the leprosy surveys undertook by the Indian government and methods used to achieve leprosy elimination by the WHO goal in 2005. Although the work was challenging at times due to the numerous gaps in available data I really enjoyed the chance to contribute to original research and academic articles in the neglected tropical disease field which I something I hope to pursue in a future career. The wide variety of activities and people at the charity was incredibly engaging and allowed me to develop a true understanding of how Lepra operates They were extremely flexible, enabling me to work around my schedule and undertake a number of projects related to my own interests. I am very thankful to all the dedicated staff at Lepra for allowing me this opportunity to build on my personal skills and professional knowledge. Interning at Lepra is an amazing way to gain experience of working at a charity and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to help an incredibly worthy cause. Thank You To Our Volunteers We’d like to thank Molly for all her help during her internship and also all our volunteers around the world. You all make a real difference to people affected by leprosy and LF. We will beat leprosy together! If you are interested in volunteering with Lepra or internships, please contact Olivia on 01206 216700.