Who we are About us Our ambassadors Victoria Hislop Victoria 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 stigma 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. Last year alone Lepra directly helped 1.2 million people and gave community health education to a similar number. Reaching out is fundamental to encouraging understanding and for giving confidence to individuals to speak ofleprosy, 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. Mr Rajeev Sharma Mr Rajeev Sharma, a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at the QEII Hospital in Welwyn Garden City and Spire Harpenden Hospital. He specialises in upper limb surgery and is a trainer and assessor for orthopaedic surgeons. Originally from Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India, he was awarded an Honorary Professorship in orthopaedics by the Sri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Sciences and has helped design operating theatres in India. As our ambassador, Mr Sharma will be focusing on raising awareness of our work within the medical fraternity through his association with surgeons, hand therapists and physiotherapists and will represent us as an expert voice on reconstructive surgery. He says: "I am deeply honoured to be associated with Lepra... Lepra has a history of tremendous research and accountable work stretching over several decades. As an orthopaedic surgeon with experience of working with leprosy patients in India, I have seen first-hand the stigma attached to leprosy and lymphatic filariasis. It is heart-breaking to see the effects of this prejudice. To be shunned by family and friends because of a disability and the visible signs of disease is inhumane, and it needn't be the case. Leprosy is curable, but health education and access to vital services are a necessary part of this fight to change lives. With your generous support, we can continue increasing awareness of Lepra's work and helping people with leprosy access the care and assistance they need." 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 stigmatised 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.