More likely than not, you may have heard of the charity Barnardo’s. You might even have donated to them or bought products from their stores or their online shop. But have you ever thought about how they started?
Barnardo’s was set up by a man called Dr. Barnardo, who dedicated his life to helping destitute children who lived in the streets and/or had no parents. Read on to learn more about this Victorian-era philanthropist:
1. He Was An Irishman.
Thomas John Barnardo was born in Dublin, Ireland, on July 4, 1845. He was the son of John Michaelis (a businessman who emigrated from Germany) and Abigail Barnardo (an Englishwoman). He had four siblings and two other step-siblings from his father’s first marriage.
2. He Initially Wanted To Be a Missionary.
When he was 16 years old, Barnardo decided that he wanted become a medical missionary and go to China. With this plan in mind, he took up medicine and studied at the London Hospital. He also studied at Paris and Scotland and was awarded a fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeon in Edinburgh.
3. He Never Worked As a Doctor.
Despite starting out as a medical student and being known by many people as “Doctor” Barnardo, he never practiced his profession because he chose to focus on his philanthropic work. While working in London, Barnardo became aware of issues that plagued the society, such as unemployment and urban overcrowding. He also noticed the plight of destitute children, many of whom were left orphaned because of the cholera outbreak and were living in the streets. These convinced him to abandon his dream of becoming a medical missionary and instead concentrate on helping the poor. His first step was to establish the Ragged School, which gave poor children access to free education.
4. He Was Convinced By a Pupil To Open His First Home.
Jim Jarvis, one of Barnardo’s pupils in the Ragged School, reportedly inspired the Doctor to do more for homeless and destitute children. Jarvis took Barnado on a walk around the East End and showed him hundreds of boys who were sleeping in gutters or on rooftops. The children opted to sleep in the open because the alternative was to be sent to workhouses. The scene moved Barnado deeply and motivated him to set up a home for boys and eventually a home for girls.
5. He Had Been Accused Of Kidnapping.
Barnardo was well-loved by many people because of his works, but he did not escape controversies. One of these is the accusation that he took children without their parents’ permission. Barnardo admitted to this but defended himself, saying it was a “philanthropic” abduction and pointing out that he was “rescuing” the children from parents and guardians who were living immorally and/or were not able to provide care and support to the children.
Dr. Barnardo’s philanthropic works had a huge impact to the Victorian society and helped thousands of children over the years. His legacy lives on with Barnado’s, who provides counseling and training services to young people and helps them achieve their full potential.