What makes us human?

Peter Waddup, CEO - The Leprosy Mission Great Britain

No one has made it through life without someone going the extra mile for them. We can all think of a time when a person has selflessly gone out of their way to help us. They may not even remember what they did but we never forget how special they made us feel. Winston Churchill once said, 'We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give'. This is so wise. Giving our time and our resources to others is what makes us human. It's how we forge meaningful relationships with our family, friends, communities and even people across the world!

It takes a special kind of person to give and volunteer to help a person they have never met before. And every time I chat to one of our amazing supporters, I am reminded of the faith they show. That their time and gifts really are rebuilding the lives of some of the world's hardest to reach people. It is so exciting when I get to travel to Asia and Africa with a supporter. To see them connect with the people they have helped from afar, usually for many years, is joyful. For me, that connection in person somehow completes the circle.

Volunteers are the backbone of our work. Next week - Volunteers Week - we are celebrating our incredible volunteer team! We can only cure leprosy and transform lives through the help of our volunteers. The volunteer roles in The Leprosy Mission are rich and diverse! There are the church representatives organising special leprosy services and fundraising events. Then there are our Trustees who give their time to oversee the running of our charity. They provide a check that we are doing everything in our power to reach as many people as possible with leprosy.

Across Britain we have our dedicated volunteer speaker teams. This talented group of people travel to churches and community groups each week. They tell people of the need to find and cure people of leprosy, a disease that shouldn't even exist today! Two of our volunteer speakers have even been treated for leprosy themselves. Dan and Babs Izzett have not only shared their story in their home county of Somerset but around the globe! We are so thankful for their willingness, tenacity, and incredible openness.

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There are many others who give their time freely to help rid the world of this cruel disease. From the children's groups raising money to change lives to supporters selling their homemade bakes. My heartfelt thanks goes to each and every one of our volunteers. I am acutely aware of the many unseen hours spent setting up a fundraising event. And the late nights spent wading through detailed paperwork ahead of a board meeting. I want them to know that they are so loved and appreciated.

I am also indebted to our volunteer ambassadors who amplify the voice of people affected by leprosy. We have many passionate ambassadors including broadcaster Pam Rhodes and Paralympian Stef Reid. These two incredible women have selflessly taken time to visit our hospitals and communities affected by leprosy. They never miss an opportunity to voice the injustice that is leprosy. We are so appreciative of their dedication to making the world a better place.

Last week I was struck by something Stef said on a podcast recorded for United Christian Broadcasters. Stef, a long jumper, sprinter and triple Paralympic medallist, is passionate about seeing every person thrive. She uses her status as a Paralympian to promote inclusivity. Stef said it was a disservice to Paralympians if we just talked about their sport. She said there had to be a reason why someone would want to watch a Paralympian run 100 metres in 11 seconds. Why would they do that when they could watch an Olympian run the same distance in 9.5 seconds? She said the reason is their story and that is the power. Human beings are driven by stories.

Our work is all about telling people's stories. Otherwise, how can a person in the UK empathise with the many millions of people they don't know who need leprosy treatment? People need to understand an individual's story first. That way they can forge a connection and want to help them. It then struck me that our amazing volunteers don't just volunteer their time, talents and expertise. Their volunteering is who they are! People affected by poverty and leprosy across the globe are part of their story! How wonderful is it that this is the power of human connectiveness and, indeed, the very essence of what makes us human.