The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI) has an impressive 140 year history and is one of the largest and most reputable Christian organizations in India working on leprosy reduction and prevention.
In 1869, Wellesley Bailey, a young Irishman, set sail for India where he became a teacher Ambala in the Punjab and witnessed for the first time the devastating effects of leprosy.
In 1873 Wellesley and his wife Alice, whom he had married in 1870, returned to Ireland because of problems with Alice’s health. Wellesley and Alice were determined to raise awareness of the issues affected people with leprosy and in 1873 they begin a speaking ministry to tell people about the needs of the leprosy patients.
In 1874 TLM began as ‘The Mission to Lepers’ when in response to Wellesley and Alice’s talks, people begin giving money and praying for their work. By the late 1870s the Mission was raising £900 a year and caring for 100 leprosy-affected people in north India.
Over the next two decades, the Baileys travel extensively to see the needs of people affected by leprosy and to encourage support for their 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
Money raised during the Mission’s first public meeting in London helps to build a leprosy home and children’s home in Neyyor in south India. The first ‘Mission to Lepers’ home outside India is created in Burma, a support office is set up in Ontario in Canada and gradually the Mission extends its work into China and Japan.
1910s – Into Africa
Work begins in Africa and Bailey and his wife travel to China, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and India, visiting projects, raising awareness of leprosy and asking for support.
By the time Bailey retires in 1917 and is succeeded by William Anderson 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 in India and as a new treatment for leprosy becomes available a few people are cured.
From 1939-45 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 disabilities.
The first effective cure for leprosy, Dapsone, is introduced and over the next fifteen years millions of patients are successfully treated.
1960s – From ‘The Mission to Lepers’ to TLM
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 is receiving any sort of treatment. Researchers also discover some leprosy patients are beginning 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) which cured people in as little as six months. TLM agrees to adopt MDT in its treatment of 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.
1992 - Diana, Princess of Wales visits TLM Premananda Hospital in Calcutta (Kolkata)
2000s - Staying focused
TLM’s work becomes more community focused as the number of new cases of leprosy declines. Some hospitals in India are closed as projects focus on training, skills development and income generation for leprosy-affected people.
Many leprosy organisations move to work in other areas of health care but TLM stays committed to its vision of a ‘world without leprosy’ continuing to provide expert care to leprosy-affected people.
The 2004 tsunami hits parts of south India where TLM has a strong presence. Staff are able to care for people affected by the disaster by helping to provide low-cost homes and means of making a living, such as new boats for fishing communities.