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Margaret Mahato - TLM Hero

A black and white photo of a woman in front of a chalk board as she teaches a class of adult students

From being a young British physiotherapist with little exposure to the world of leprosy to becoming the National Coordinator for Prevention of Disability (POD) at the largest leprosy-focused NGO in India, Margaret’s professional journey was anchored in diligence, patience, and perseverance: all stemming from her faith and urge to help people in dire need.

Margaret went to India as a missionary with The Leprosy Mission in 1973 where she received leprosy training at Karigiri before taking over the physiotherapist department at Purulia Hospital. The physiotherapy department was the busiest department in the hospital treating patients before and after their surgery, applying plaster casts and teaching amputee patients to walk again with their artificial limbs.

Margaret was among the early physiotherapists in India who were trained in physiotherapy regimen for Reconstructive Surgery (RCS) patients. She not only learned about the technical nuances of pre-RCS and post-RCS physiotherapy services, but also took the initiative of developing information, education, and communication materials in the form of coloured booklets on preventing disability, the content of which is still used widely not only in The Leprosy Mission, but also in other leprosy-focused organisations.

Her work in India was primarily that of developing others to help those affected by leprosy. Quite early in her career, she was given the responsibility of conducting training courses for physio technicians in leprosy. For decades she helped build their expertise and encouraged the next generation of physio technicians to work in the leprosy domain. She also steered training and workshops for paramedical professionals and doctors in the Prevention of Impairment & Disability (POID) in Leprosy. She was involved in evaluations and assessments of POID programmes in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and China. Margaret remained in India until she retired in 2008.

Those who have seen Margaret from close quarters testify to the fact that she is an individual full of strength, determination, hope and enthusiasm. She is admired for her ‘quiet perseverance’ and ‘gentle spirit’. As a committed Christian, she would draw strength from the Lord. Her smiling countenance and warmth made her a go-to person for her patients and colleagues.

Margaret has left a lasting impression on her students who fondly remember her even decades after she stopped teaching. “When I think back to the people in my life who have most impacted me, I immediately think of my old teacher Margaret E. Mahato,” one of her students recently wrote about her. She had great concern and compassion for the people affected by leprosy and other disabilities.