The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI) has a long history of 140 years. It is one of the oldest and largest organizations in India working on leprosy prevention and eradication. TLMTI has come a long way from its humble beginning in 1874.
1869 (The beginning) – Wellesley Bailey, a young Irishman, sets sail for India intending to join the police force. On arrival he decides instead to become a teacher. During his training with an American mission organisation he sees for the first time the devastating effects of leprosy.
1873 (Bailey begin speaking ministry) – Wellesley and his wife Alice, returned to Ireland because of problems with Alice’s health. Wellesley and Alice were determined to raise awareness of the issues of people affected with leprosy and they begin a speaking ministry to tell people about the needs of the leprosy patients they had met in India.
1874 (The Mission to Lepers) – ‘The Mission to Lepers’ is born. In response to the talks given by the Baileys, people begin giving money and praying for the work. By the late 1870s the Mission was raising £900 a year and caring for 100 people affected by leprosy in India. Throughout the rest of the1870s and into the next two decades, the Baileys travel extensively to see the needs of people affected by leprosy and to encourage support for the work.
1880s (First Hospital) – Mary Reed was sent to India as the Mission’s first missionary and Purulia Leprosy Hospital in West Bengal was opened with support from the Mission. Three support offices were formed in England to encourage support for the Mission’s work in India.
1890s (India and beyond) – The Mission’s first public meeting held in London – the money raised helps to build a leprosy home and children’s home in Neyyor in South India. More homes and hospitals open in India – in Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Wellesley Bailey visits Mandalay, Burma, to open the first ‘Mission to Lepers’ home outside India. Bailey tours the USA and Canada and a support office in Ontario is formed. Gradually the Mission’s work extends to China and Japan.
1910s (Into Africa) – Work begins in Africa and Mr. Wellesley Bailey and his wife travel to China, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and India, visiting projects, raising awareness about leprosy and asking for support. More hospitals and homes open in India.
1917 (Wellesley Bailey retires) – Wellesley Bailey retires in 1917 and is succeeded by William Anderson. By this time the Mission has 87 programmes in 12 countries with support offices in eight countries.
1920s and 30s (Eradicating leprosy) – A new leprosy hospital is opened in Faizabad (Uttar Pradesh), India. TLM has five residential schools at Champa (Chhattisgarh), Faizabad (Uttar Pradesh), Purulia (West Bengal), Vadathorasalur (Tamil Nadu), and Kothara (Maharashtra) for children of the inmates of the homes. Soon children from other places are admitted for leprosy treatment and education. A new treatment for leprosy becomes available and a few people are cured.
1939-45 (Second World War) – Much of the Mission’s work is affected by the Second World War, particularly in China, Japan and Burma.
1940s (Treatment and Surgery) – Dr Paul Brand, a surgeon, and colleagues at Karigiri, South India, pioneer life-changing reconstructive surgery to correct leprosy-related deformities.
Dapsone, the first effective cure for leprosy is introduced and over the next fifteen years millions of patients are successfully treated.
1950s (Transition from Homes to Hospitals) – Dapsone began to be widely used and TLM Homes began their transition into hospitals to meet the need for tertiary leprosy care – ulcer care, Reconstructive Surgery , reactions and neuritis treatment, eye care.
1960s (From ‘The Mission to Lepers’ to The Leprosy Mission) – In 1965 The Mission to Lepers changes its name to The Leprosy Mission (TLM) to avoid the negative connotations of the word ‘leper’. By the late 1960s there are still 15 million people suffering from leprosy and only one sufferer in every five receive any sort of treatment. Researchers also discover that some leprosy patients begin to develop resistance to Dapsone.
1970s (Community Focused) – TLM’s community work increases and local skilled medical staff travel from village to village diagnosing new cases of leprosy and providing patients with anti-leprosy drugs.
1980s (Finding a Cure) – In 1981 the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a new combination drug treatment for leprosy – Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT). TLM adopts MDT in its treatment for leprosy.
1990s (Rehabilitation) – As more leprosy patients are cured, caring for people with disabilities as a result of leprosy becomes increasingly important. TLM begins programmes for social, economic and physical rehabilitation.
2000s (Staying focused) – TLM’s work becomes more community focused as the number of new cases of leprosy declines. Some hospitals in India close as projects focus on income generation, training and skills development for leprosy-affected people. TLM stays committed to its vision of a ‘World without Leprosy’ continuing to provide expert care to leprosy-affected people.