Our history - The story of Merlin's founders



Merlin's first mission

Chris Besse, Mark Dalton, Lisa Coghill, Liz Tayler & Toby Porter

In early 1993, three young friends - a doctor, a manager and a logistician - decided to create a specialist charity to send medical teams into disaster zones.

Dr Christopher Besse, Nicholas Mellor and Mark Dalton wanted to harness the energy and goodwill of doctors, nurses and other professionals, and enable them to work overseas to care for the sick, prevent disease and help develop local health services.

From an office set up in the spare bedroom of a London house, Merlin organised its first mission: a convoy bound for war-torn Bosnia carrying £1million worth of essential food and medicines.

Christopher recalls the early days: "There was enormous enthusiasm, commitment and drive from all our volunteers. Merlin was built on this incredible energy, we didn't pay ourselves anything, we never looked at what we had in the bank. It was really only after a few years when we got a bit bigger that we realised we couldn't continue to drive Merlin on fumes alone."

Since then, Merlin has grown dramatically - evolving into one of the leading international health organisations. To date, Merlin has worked in over 40 countries and responded to some of the most serious humanitarian emergencies of recent history.

These include the Rwandan genocide, the Asian tsunami, Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar (Burma), the Haiti earthquake, Pakistan floods and 2011's devastating food crisis in east Africa.

Merlin now has over 5,000 staff members, 99% of whom are based in the field - and reaching the lives of 20 million people on average each year.

Learn more about Merlin's history in an interview with Dr Christopher Besse.