The Leonard Cheshire Trust was founded in 1948 at Hampshire, England by Group Captain Leonard Cheshire. In 1952 the remit of the original Trust was expanded so that it became a general advisory body which would be responsible to the public for the use of grants and donations and also a legal entity to which properties could be conveyed. The Trust was incorporated as a limited company in 1955. The name was changed to The Leonard Cheshire Foundation in 1976 and to Leonard Cheshire Disability in 2007. In 2017 the name was changed to Leonard Cheshire to recognise what would have been Group Captain Cheshire's hundredth birthday.
In 1955, after spending two years being treated for Tuberculosis at King Edward VII Hospital in Midhurst, Group Captain Cheshire left the UK to expand his organisation overseas in India. The first Home was opened near Bombay in 1956 and Cheshire Homes India was registered in 1957. By 1970 there were 5 more projects in India, and a Leonard Cheshire presence of some kind in 21 other countries worldwide.
Today, this work is known as the Leonard Cheshire Disability Global Alliance, a network of over 200 independently managed Cheshire organisations. The members, of which the UK charity Leonard Cheshire Disability is one, work in 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. Leonard Cheshire Disability in the UK has no authority or supervisory function over other Cheshire partners.
Global Alliance members are united by a desire to change attitudes towards disability around the world, supporting each other through sharing skills and experience. Each Cheshire organisation has its own independent governance structure and individual NGO status.
Many Global Alliance members work in partnership with regional offices to implement projects across core programme areas in education, livelihoods, and policy and campaigning.
The Global Alliance network is supported by a secretariat based at Leonard Cheshire Disability's UK head office. The secretariat facilitates the sharing of learning and best practice among Global Alliance members and coordinates common initiatives.
Global Alliance members in each country are usually organised in national councils at country level and in regional councils across seven regions:
- The Americas
- East and North Africa
- Southern Africa
- West Africa
- East Asia and the Pacific
- South Asia