Lynwood resident Ranjana Varma went into her McCusker Centre for Citizenship internship at Huntington’s WA with two simple goals: to gain some experience and broaden her skillset.
She never imagined she would discover her professional life’s purpose.
A Bachelor of Science student at the University of Western Australia, said she was now considering applying for honours specifically to research Huntington’s disease.
“The organisation and its community has become very close to me,” she said. “What I learnt and experienced on my internship will stay with me for a long time.”
It comes as no surprise that 20-year-old Varma developed a close connection to the not-forprofit organisation’s fundraising efforts – as she was instrumental in making International Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month its most successful yet.
As the communications and marketing intern, she promoted the Light It Up for HD campaign in which buildings, monuments and statues were illuminated in blue and purple during the month of May to raise the visibility of Huntington’s and Juvenile Huntington’s disease.
Huntington’s WA executive director and intern supervisor Lenni Duffield said Ms Varma coordinated the launch event, ran all marketing, advertising and community engagement.
“Due to Ranj’s efforts we had more sites agree to light up this year as well as an overwhelming response to our Light It Up launch event,” she said.
“The night was a huge success which not only raised vital funds to support our cause but also much needed awareness.
“For a small not-for-profit to have the opportunity to host an intern to support the mission and work we deliver to our community has been an invaluable experience for both our team and our intern.”
Ms Varma also coordinated the Dynamic Huntington’s Heroes Team for the HBF Run for a Reason on May 19. The 47 Dynamic Huntington’s Heroes Team members raised $9,226 for Huntington’s WA.
Ms Varma said meeting people with Huntington’s and seeing the “real-life effects” of the disease had a huge impact on her. “I knew all the science behind it from my studies,” she said.
“When you read about it in a textbook, it might just say ‘impaired cognition’ under symptoms. “But then, when I actually met someone with Huntington’s and saw for myself what ‘impaired cognition’ really means it was completely different. “
To see them struggling to do everyday things that we take for granted, like walking straight or picking up a spoon to eat with. It really broke my heart.”
Ms Varma said her internship gave her the opportunity to directly contribute to raising awareness about Huntington’s disease.