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Letter from Michael Harries, 18 West End, Whitney, Oxon


Note: This letter is written by a friend from Baker's China years to Mrs Baker. It sheds some light on the conditions during the period and on Baker's lesser known humanitarian work in China with lepers.


Dear Kuni,

I am old now, as we all are, and war years were so involved with so many things, and what we did - its not easy to remember – so much has happened ever since. However I do have two memories that may be of interest as far as the FAU and China are concerned.

I was an early one to arrive in China. I drove up the Burma Road and until February 1942, was in Kweiyang, working in the medical stores. Later in the year I was posted to Paosham with the surgical team we had there. I was the anesthetist. We were close to the Mekong river which was as far as the Japanese had reached. Although I had known Laurie at home, the first time I met him in China was when I was moved to Kunming dealing with the support of other medical teams. I often went to Kunming by train, often sitting on the roof. Kunming was the unit head quarters and the meeting point for personnel, and of course all those involved with the ever increasing trucking operations and repair shops.. Laurie was in charge of the hostel. On the whole, it was a happy crowd, but care was needed to keep everyone happy. So much fell on Laurie, and he worked night and day to keep constant demands met. He did a terrific job. We had so much to thank him for.

However few, if any, realized until afterwards, the work he did a year later with the lepers at the Salachi Leper Colony. His care for those who suffered from this disease must have been of the greatest difficulty in every way. A major problem was the hatred and fear of the neighboring population. This at times resulted in physical violence and efforts to close the home. It did not take Laurie long to realise that those problems were based on ignorance. That terrible illness was not understood in any way, and people questioned why such people were allowed to exist. Laurie undertook to approach the nearby villages and explain to everyone about the plight of these people and their illness. This was of course not easy. In fact at first he was treated with great disdain and contempt, and even anger and threats of violence. But by huge efforts of perseverance Laurie won out. In fact in due course, the people not only visited the home and talked to the patients but even started to help and tend to them. He overcame a situation that seemed to have been there forever: the fear and hatred and the ignorance of a most terrible disease - leprosy.

Many missions had leprosy homes, and when the population objected, as has been the case at Salachi, the missionaries used to move their establishments away to remote lonely places. However when news of Laurie's efforts and success spread, many others undertook similar efforts and started to move the patients back to social surroundings

Laurie's life has with your support been beyond praise and I wish the both of you the very best.