Monday, 04 July 2022

Henley Educational Trust

Henley Educational Trust

THE Henley Educational Trust is pleased to be part-funding local student Harriet Herridge to follow her dream to study for a master’s degree based in Berlin and carry out vital research into a new disease in chimpanzees.

Harriet says: “I first found out about this exciting project back in December 2019, when the University of Exeter advertised for a master’s by research student to look into infectious disease outbreaks in critically endangered chimpanzees of Western Africa.

“Having been interested in both primate conservation and wildlife disease during my zoology degree, this was a dream opportunity for me.

“But this would never have been possible without the generosity of the Henley Educational Trust.

“Their grant meant I was able to accept this incredible opportunity, move countries and work among this inspiring group of researchers.

“The skills I am gaining will be hugely beneficial to my future career and for that I am beyond grateful.”

Amanda Heath, who chairs the trustees, says: “We are enormously proud to be able to help Harriet by way of a grant towards her studies and her work in this important field.

“We are all so aware these days of the impact of infections both in humans and animals and especially those related so closely to us. To be able to be a part of such vital work is fantastic.”

She added: “Although much of our funding goes to our under-18s either by individual grant or via local schools, colleges and clubs, the trust is also able to part-fund young people in need up to the age of 25 to help them gain access to further education.

“I am sure that this master’s degree will help Harriet on her way to a brilliant career and a better world in the future.”

The project that Harriet is involved with is based for six months at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, Germany’s central scientific institute for biomedicine.

The collaborators, headed by Professor Fabian Leendertz, are world-renowned for their ground-breaking work on highly infectious or harmful (pathogenic) micro-organisms in wild populations, especially in great apes.

Their research focuses mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, a hot-spot area for the emergence of diseases that spread between animals and humans (zoonotic diseases).

The research is part of a leprosy monitoring project.

In 2017, Dr Kimberley Hockings, of the University of Exeter, noticed some odd-looking lesions on several chimpanzees which were being observed via camera traps in Cantanhez National Park, Guinea Bissau.

After contacting Prof Leendertz, chimpanzee faecal samples were collected and subsequently analysed.

The results came back positive for leprosy, which had never before been documented in wild chimpanzees.

In October Harriet moved to Berlin to continue work on the chimp-leprosy project. While there, she has been working in the laboratories, extracting DNA from faecal samples and conducting molecular screening for the presence of leprosy.

These six months have given her the opportunity to acquire important molecular techniques in the fields of disease ecology and evolution as well as veterinary and biomedical research.

Harriet will finish her master’s thesis in Germany and hopes to carry out further research in this field.

Everyone at the trust wishes her the very greatest success in the future and hopes to hear more from her as she continues her exciting work.

The Henley Educational Trust is a registered charity and has helped the young people of Henley with their educational needs over many years. It provides grants in three specific ways:

•Through individual grants to pupils in need for a variety of educational purposes including musical tuition, school uniform, school trips, some further education and sporting activities.

•Via grants direct to state schools in the Henley area and to The Henley College to help support the education of their pupils, for example, grants to renew reading books or to provide laptops to aid both in-school and virtual learning.

• Via grants to clubs and groups working with young people from Henley and to the Henley Partnership of Schools to enable cross-school initiatives such as providing access to vital counselling services.

For more information about how to apply for a grant, find out who is eligible and to see a snapshot of the great work of the Henley Educational Trust, please visit www.henleyeducational

Debbie Wermann

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