London Metropolitan University

International volunteering during a global crisis

Shortly after graduating from London Metropolitan University, Cristina Leggio spent some time volunteering in West Africa during the ebola crisis to use her skills and knowledge to help other communities, an ethos strongly supported and valued by London Met. Using the skills she learned on her Biomedical Science BSc course, Cristina worked as part of a team to build labs in Sierra Leone, West Africa, which had to be stocked with medical supplies. The labs’ purpose were to provide the diagnostic service required to identify and isolate suspected Ebola patients. Cristina said: “Setting up the lab was the first real challenge. It was very hot and humid, all the equipment was delivered to us in huge crates, some weighing up to 400kg, which had to be shifted around, opened, checked and then moved by hand.

Working as part of a team during a serious global medical crisis, Cristina and her team knew there was “no room for error.” The team had to adhere to safety precautions such as wearing three layers of gloves and handling all medical samples inside an isolator, to prevent further outbreak.

“Despite the blisters and the intense heat team morale was high. We all knew that the quality of our work could have a direct impact on people’s lives and this thought kept us going. I chose to be in science because I wanted to do something that could help people and find solutions as part of my daily work. For the first time in my career I was in the position to use my skills and experience to provide support to a country struggling,” she said.

Following her volunteering role, Cristina returned to work at the PHE base in Wiltshire where she utilised her knowledge to make a difference to her local community.