Story 85

Inspiration for all of us

The year 1955 marks an important milestone for the global outreach of Leonard Cheshire Disability. It is the year that the first residential care service was established outside the UK, in Bombay (now Mumbai), India.

Leonard Cheshire and PM John

Over the next decade several other Cheshire Homes were established in India, and today there are 22 across the country. Through Leonard Cheshire’s passion and commitment, he was instrumental in setting up over 250 Homes outside of the UK, in 50 countries.

Mumbai Cheshire Home always remained close to Leonard Cheshire’s heart. It started in a cottage built by the offices of Nina Carney, wife of the Chief Engineer of Burma Shell, on a plot of land acquired for Cheshire Home. Later on additional buildings were constructed and the site continues to be a home for many people with disabilities.

Leonard Cheshire used to visit India at least once in a year. He would spend time interacting with residents at the Homes, and also participated in meetings of the Central Trust where senior volunteer leaders from the Homes would be present. As a soft spoken and charismatic person, he was an inspiration to the Cheshire volunteer leaders and our beneficiaries.

For me, as part of Leonard Cheshire’s work in India and in South Asia Region and as Hon. Treasurer of the Central Trust (now National Council) for over ten years since 1981, it has been a rare honour to have known Leonard Cheshire on a personal level. I met with him on several occasions, and always found my interactions with him to be both educative and inspirational.

A visionary, Leonard Cheshire continues to be an inspiration for all of us. He always found time to speak to young leaders, men and women. During one of his visits, at my request as the then President of Bombay YMCA, he was invited to speak to the members of the Bombay YMCA at the YMCA International House, Mumbai.

I had the privilege to travel with him on many occasions. One such trip was a memorable visit to Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala, the southernmost state of India. I stayed with Leonard in the palace of Mar Gregorios, Archbishop of Trivandrum. Archbishop Mar Gregorios donated the plot of land to Trivandrum Cheshire Home, where a beautiful and well-planned building was established for 100 residents. During that visit I had several formal and informal conversations with him, which enlightened me on his deepest motivations, philosophy and ideas on taking voluntary support to people with disabilities.

Though soft spoken, he had the quality of being firm and persuasive. His memory and his words inspire many volunteer leaders in supporting people with disabilities. The work in India continues to expand, and today we are reaching larger numbers of disabled children and youths across India through inclusive education, livelihoods and community-based rehabilitation programmes.

The growth of the Cheshire movement in India is reflected in his words: ‘The basic key is people. If you have the right people, the rest will follow.’

The growth of the Cheshire movement in India is reflected in his words: "The basic key is people. If you have the right people, the rest will follow."