The managing director of local joinery manufacturer Scotts of Thrapston once crossed the road to avoid people with leprosy while backpacking in India in the 1990s.
But now Peter Waddup, who was born and bred in Northampton attending Northampton School for Boys, has been appointed chairman of The Leprosy Mission England and Wales.
After his backpacking experience, thoughts of this group of people stuck in Peter’s memory. After he found out that the late National Director of The Leprosy Mission England and Wales, Rupert Haydock, attended his church, he would “corner him” every Sunday to ask more about the work of the mission.
In 2009, Peter was asked to join the Board of Trustees at The Leprosy Mission England and Wales and one year later became the treasurer and Chairman of the Finance and Planning committee.
On the day he became treasurer, Peter was advised by Rupert that he should visit one of The Leprosy Mission’s projects. Rupert suddenly died the following week and Peter, remembering his final words, arranged to visit projects in Kolkata and West Bengal, India, in February 2011.
In December 2013 he travelled to Ethiopia with Ann Widdecombe, Vice-President of The Leprosy Mission England and Wales, to witness first-hand the Woreda 1 slum transformation project in Addis Ababa.
Peter, who lives in Oundle, said: “I had travelled as a backpacker through Rajastan in India back in 1993 and must confess to crossing the road to avoid people with leprosy. How little I knew then, and how fortunate for me to be able to compensate now for those actions that were so wrong and misguided.
“I was thrilled and humbled when the outgoing chairman, Colin Osborne, asked if I would consider becoming the new Chairman. My hopes for the Board during my term is to see the passion for this amazing cause sustained by the trustees and to support and assist the new National Director, Peter Walker, in any way I can. I love to visit the offices in Peterborough and see the dedication of the staff for this amazing work.
“I have witnessed lives being transformed by The Leprosy Mission’s projects. Leprosy, whilst easily curable, is deeply disabling if left untreated and the stigma surrounding the disease in parts of the world today is just heartbreaking.
“People are abandoned by their families and sacked by their employees as a result of this deep-rooted stigma. But The Leprosy Mission acts as a springboard to empower these people to live a new life by providing healthcare, education, housing and livelihood opportunities to lift them out of extreme poverty.
“Some of the transformations the charity sees are just amazing but there is still so much work to do.”
While living in a busy life, Peter still finds time to support the Cobblers, as do his wife Helen and children, Elizabeth and Joshua, who are all season ticket holders. He also tries to see the Saints and the county cricket club as often as he can.