Members of the NTD Network from three continents gathered this month in Uruguay, for our first AGM, held 31st March to 2nd April 2019 and hosted at Institut Pasteur, Montevideo by our institutional lead, Professor Carlos Robello. We had expected that the visit provided us with a chance to review our progress, catch up with the research projects now underway across the Asian, South American and UK HUBS, and also to discuss our strategic way forward, to gain the most we can from this phase of our project (2018-2021). But Carlos and his team also had other surprises in store!
I had heard of the famous Uruguayan hospitality, but I was nevertheless surprised at the warmth of our welcome, and the attention to detail. Our local hosts had done some fast talking at the hotel in order that we could all have the rooms with the best views. At every break, we were fed beautiful snacks and treats. And at every opportunity, our hosts initiated us into their tradition of ‘Asado’; the barbecue. We were provided with a tour of a famous local winery, a surprise Tango show during the conference dinner, and – incredibly – a carnival procession of our own with dancers and musicians!!
But most skilful of all, was how our hosts provided the perfect venues and atmosphere with the perfect light touch so that we felt at ease, and could relax with each other. And here is the true value of this meeting. The chance to connect with our colleagues from across the world as friends, with warmth and cordiality, is the magic ingredient that animates the feast. This gathering felt like the coming together of a family. We go the extra miles for the people that matter to us. This makes these vast geographical and cultural distances seem smaller and worth travelling for, and indeed, a reason for celebration.