THE STORY OF A COLONY FOR EPILEPTICS.
|THE STORY OF A COLONY FOR EPILEPTICS.|
SOME twenty-seven years ago, a number of gentlemen interested in social and philanthropic questions met together at Bielefeld, in Westphalia, to consider what could be done to alleviate the sufferings of epileptic patients, and prevent their being a burden to themselves and to their fellows. Epilepsy was at that time alarmingly prevalent in North Germany, no less than one tenth per cent of the population being afflicted with the disease. There was hardly a village but had its epileptics, men, women, and children, who passed their days just waiting for the coming of those awful paroxysms, which rendered them at once the terror and the derision of their neighbors. Many of these people were full of life and energy, willing, nay, eager to work, for, as they well knew, in steady work lay their one chance of warding off the doom that threatened them. Every day epileptics sit with folded hands brings them the nearer to hopeless idiocy. It is this that renders their fate so infinitely pathetic. Work they must, unless they are to become insane; and there is no work for them to do! Masters do not care to run the risk of employing men who, at any moment, may be stricken helpless. Thus thousands are compelled to pass their days in enforced idleness, an idleness fraught with disaster to themselves, and with the loss of much good service to the community. It was to put an end to this state of things, so far at least as Westphalia was concerned, that the Bielefeld committee began its work. The problem its members had to face was how to arrange a condition of life under which the labor of epileptic patients might be rendered economically productive. This they set to work to solve in an eminently practical fashion, by opening a labor home for epileptics. This home, Bethel as it is called, has now developed into one of the most important labor colonies in Europe. What gives a special interest at present to Bethel is that a committee has just been formed for the purpose of establishing a similar institution in England.
Bethel was started in a very humble way. A small farm was bought at Sparenberg, near Bielefeld, with money raised by voluntary subscriptions, and there the first patients were installed. A committee of management was appointed to watch over the working of the Home, which was placed under the direction of Herr Unsöld, a kindly, energetic man, a practical farmer, too, as well as a skillful organizer. There were at first only four patients, but before many weeks had passed the house was full. The inmates all lived together as one family, and cultivated the