Born on 4th of July 1845
Died on 19th of September 1905
The great philanthropist Thomas John Barnardo was born in Dublin on July 4th 1845. He inherited his Hispanic surname from his Sephardic Jewish father’s family. Barnardo, who commenced working life as a clerk, intended to work as a medical missionary in China – he converted to Christianity in 1862 - and studied medicine in London, Paris and finally Edinburgh where he qualified as a surgeon. However during the cholera epidemic of 1865 he reached a turning point in his life. Working as a doctor in the East End of London Barnardo became aware of the plight of homeless and destitute children there and in other English cities. Their fate touched him to the extent that in 1867 he set up the first Dr Barnado’s home in Stepney. The homes found or took in waifs and strays, feeding, clothing, educating and where possible training them for “work most suitable to each child’s talents.” There were no admission restrictions regarding race or religion and each child was bought up in the faith of their parents with great attention given to this aspect of their education.
As more homes opened their remit expanded and there were rescue homes for girls, convalescent homes, a hospital and specialised naval training. Barnardo’s Homes also arranged for thousands of children to be sent to British colonies, mainly in Canada where the success rate in settling and integrating children into a new life proved encouragingly high. This seemed to prove Barnardo’s assertion that in children “…heredity counts for little, environment for almost everything.”
Over his lifetime Barnardo’s homes saved 60,000 children in the 112 homes he set up. The founder and inspiration for this, Dr Barnardo, died of angina in London on September 19, 1905. Today his work continues through the charity Barnardo’s.
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