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Eddie Askew - TLM Hero

Eddie pictures with his wife with bookshelves behind them

Born in England in 1927, artist, author and former International Director of The Leprosy Mission, Eddie Askew died in 2007, leaving an extraordinary legacy: he had dedicated half a century – and more than half his life – to relieving the pain and mistreatment of persons affected by leprosy around the world.

In his ‘retirement’ Eddie focused on painting and writing – the sale of his 17 books and paintings raised more than £2m for The Leprosy Mission. But it all began in 1950, when newlyweds Eddie and Barbara moved to West Bengal, India, to teach at the school for children with leprosy at The Leprosy Mission’s Purulia Hospital.

Later Eddie took over as supervisor of the 600-bed TLM’s Purulia Leprosy Home and Hospital, where he worked alongside leprosy patients and experts to revolutionise how persons affected by leprosy were treated – both medically and by a world that feared them.

The couple stayed for 15 years, transforming the hospital and raising two daughters; Jenny and Stephanie. Witnessing a pioneering tendon transfer operation at the age of six set things in motion for Jenny to become a physiotherapist: “I can still see it and was totally amazed by the physiotherapist managing to get a person to move their fingers,” Jenny recalled.

Jenny fondly recalls accompanying her father on his final visit to Purulia, not long before he died: “People remembered him and would come up to him saying, ‘I’m the little six-year-old you took in when I had leprosy. My daughter is now a doctor and my son a teacher and I have grandchildren’. People just wanted to say ‘thank you’.”