Victoria Hislop

Victoria HislopVictoria Hislop is an author best known for her best-selling novel The Island

She said: 

"As the charity’s ambassador I am delighted to be asked to open this edition of Lepra News at the time of a defining anniversary and a further big push to beat leprosy and the effects of leprosy.

My own experience of visiting India to see the work of Lepra showed me the importance of the charity’s work to educate and to treat those who suffer from this disease. I met hundreds of people whose lives had been transformed, through education and treatment.

Through this I personally understand the three key areas of focus: detection and diagnosis, overcoming prejudice and dealing with the disability that has often set in before people can get help.

Every person I met who had been affected was unique. I saw how each person is looked after as an individual with different needs and circumstances, whether it’s multi-drug therapy, providing a pair of specially designed made-to-measure sandals, a community loan to earn a living, a sight-saving operation or teaching how to care for their hands and feet. The whole person is cared for in a practical and, perhaps most importantly, dignified way.

Every year Lepra directly helps over 250,000 people and provides community health education to over two million. Reaching out is fundamental to encouraging understanding and for giving confidence to individuals to speak of
leprosy, to seek help, to know they can be cured before disability sets in, and to be treated without prejudice in the community and in law.

Lepra doesn’t of course work in isolation and one of the huge strengths is the strong relationships with local health networks that allow the charity to pass on and share expertise and knowledge. This is the legacy the charity leaves on the ground to sustain the services and support those affected. If 2.4 million people were reached last year, imagine how many lives Lepra has touched in 90 years.

I am very proud to be Lepra’s ambassador and hope that their work to transform lives continues to go from strength to strength."

Listen to Victoria speak about why she supports Lepra. 

Fiona Duby OBE

Fiona has spent the past 40 years working in 29 countries in Africa and Asia in the design, management, strategic planning and evaluation of public and private sector health and development programmes.

She started her development career in Swaziland in 1976 where she was co-founder of the Family Life Association of Swaziland (one of the IPPF member organisations). She then spent over five years in Bangladesh working for ODA where she established a funding mechanism for health sector NGOs turning to emergency work during the many natural disasters. She was awarded an MBE for services to Bangladesh in 1992.

She then managed DFID’s health programmes in Nigeria for more than five years before returning to DFID headquarters where she managed programmes in Pakistan and South Asia. She was awarded the OBE for services to Nigeria in 1999.

Fiona says: “Having seen leprosy during an overland journey through Africa in 1975, and then again in Nigeria, I realised that the disease was a hidden problem affecting the poorest of the poor in a discriminatory situation which­­ kept them apart from society.”  

She was very pleased to be invited to join our Board of Trustees in 2000 and during her 15 years as a Trustee, made two trips to Lepra programmes in Brazil and more recently in India and Bangladesh. Fiona's experience of our work in the field has continued to inspire her so the opportunity to be an Ambassador is very welcome. 

Fiona hopes she can use her experience to help raise awareness of the need to support our work.

Stuart Paver

Stuart is the Managing Director of Pavers, a family company founded in 1971 that has become one of the leading UK shoe retailers. Stuart has overseen the company grow significantly to include operations in Ireland , China and India as well as its own television channel and internet platform. In 2018 Pavers acquired Jones Bootmaker and Herring Shoes broadening the product offering to a wider range of customers.

The Company philosophy is based on good family values and Stuart encourages staff to take their responsibilities to communities, charities and the environment seriously. To that end Pavers Foundation was formed in 2018 with donations of £2.5 million from the business and the estate of Catherine Paver, Stuart’s mother and founder of the company. The Foundation will add to the charitable work Pavers have done for many years with grants relating to health, education and communities around the world.

In 2015, Pavers funded our first mobile shoe van which travels across the Indian state of Bihar delivering custom made shoes to help those affected by Leprosy and LF.

Stuart Miles

Stuart Miles is best known for his five year stint presenting the iconic children’s television show Blue Peter and has a long affiliation with Lepra, going back to his hosting a segment for the show called “Leap for Lepra” which saw schoolchildren long-jumping to raise funds.

This led to the charity being chosen for the 1996 Blue Peter Bring and Buy Appeal, which became one of the most successful appeals in the show’s history, raising £2.8m for the charity and Stuart first visiting a Lepra project in Brazil.

In 1999 he opened the Blue Peter Health & Research Centre (BPHRC) in Hyderabad, which has remains become one of the leading centres for research and treatment of leprosy in the world.

In September 2018, Stuart returned to the centre and as a result of his trip, became a Lepra Ambassador, helping to launch our successful £1 from you appeal and making media appearances to raise awareness.

Stuart is a broadcaster, appearing on local radio and hosting his own Podcast and male grooming website, MilesYounger.

Stuart said:

“Following my trip back to the Blue Peter Health and Research Centre after 19 years it reminded me of the amazing work Lepra continues to do across the world helping those suffering from this cruel disease. Much has changed but there is still a long way to go.

I am thrilled to be an Ambassador for Lepra so I can be even more closely connected to this wonderful charity and support the hard work they do across India, Bangladesh and Mozambique. We will beat leprosy, together!”

Tom Barton

We are proud to welcome Tom Barton as our first ever ‘Challenge Ambassador’. Tom has joined Lepra after taking part in 11 marathons and most recently, running the Test Way in memory of his father, Rex a long-time supporter of Lepra. 

Tom ran the 46 mile Test Way course in 9 hours 30 minutes to celebrate what would have been Rex’s 75th Birthday in May 2019. His run raised over £1800, and he now hopes becoming a Challenge Ambassador will help to inspire others to undertake their own challenges to help the 7 million affected by the curable, yet often misunderstood disease.

“My fundraising efforts for Lepra began when I was less than 6 months old, and since then I’ve run 11 Marathons for Lepra.  I feel privileged to be able to help knowing each pound raised is put to good use.

Having seen first-hand the devastation that this disease can cause, along with the discrimination and prejudice against people who already face difficult circumstances, I am proud to spread awareness of Lepra’s work and to hopefully inspire others to undertake a challenge of their own to raise funds to help change lives.

Challenges do not have to be endurance events or tests of stamina, almost any personal challenge can become a way to raise funds and awareness. From giving up your mobile phone or social media for a period of time, or taking part in organised events like the Prudential Ride 100, Half and Full Marathons or an abseil, any challenge you can undertake can help us to beat leprosy together.”

Father of two Tom, is no stranger to setting up events as he is a member of the organising committee and treasurer for the Fleet Half Marathon. He has also just passed the UK Athletics Leadership in Running Fitness (LiRF) course allowing him to coach at running clubs and externally.