Norfolk's Mother Teresa: Rev Pat Atkinson | india | Hindustan Times
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Norfolk's Mother Teresa: Rev Pat Atkinson

The lady has been credited of transforming the life of child beggar from Madurai who would soon be Norwich for higher studies.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2006 19:33 IST

It is a heart-warming tale of human kindness, which has earned Rev Pat Atkinson the title of Norfolk's Mother Teresa.

Sixteen years ago when the Rev Atkinson, looked into the sad eyes of a child beggar in the slums of Madurai, she promised not to walk away from the child.

Today that beggar who lived in a shack built on untreated sewage in Mellawassal, is a young man in his second year at university studying botany. And in May he is coming to Norwich for a work experience placement as part of his degree course.

Ambeth is one of the Rev Atkinson's many success stories.

Rev Atkinson said providing the young people with opportunities to help themselves was crucial. "It has been really tough, but I go on because of the first time I saw a child with an empty, hopeless look in his eyes and I thought this shouldn't be happening in our world today," she said. "I thought I would just sit on a street corner and feed the children, but I realised I needed to do more - to give them an education."

Having recently returned from her trip to India, Rev Atkinson is once again appealing to Norfolk people to help her with her latest challenge - to build a primary school for the slum children. She faced a bitter battle to be accepted into the Mellawassal slum where 4,500 families live in raw sewage. The people at first feared she had come to steal kidneys for transplant operations.

But through sheer determination, the hospital chaplain, married with children, eventually earned the trust of the people and went on to transform their lives.

As well as helping sponsor about 300 children with donations from people in Norfolk, she built a Montessori nursery school, which is now in its third year, a drop-in centre for street children, a home for destitute women and girls, a centre for 60 boys in labour and a medical centre. Now she wants to build a primary school.

The Rev Atkinson said, "We thought the children could feed into the state schools but it means them going from our school where there are 20 children in a class and lots of love to 100 plus in a class and beatings."

With money already raised by her charity, the Vidiyal Trust (formerly a part of the Cooper Atkinson trust), Rev Atkinson has purchased a four-acre piece of rural land where 160 children will be bussed to the primary school.

Incidentally, Vidiyal means "new dawn" and nothing could be more apt.

But she needs £30,000 to build the school and equip it with classrooms, study rooms, a kitchen, rest facilities, and a bore well for drinking water. She plans to have some classrooms open by September for the first intake. "I have no overheads here, no office, so every penny goes to where it is needed - every donation is acknowledged. Together we can make more Ambeths," she said.

The appeal has been taken on by the Bishop of Thetford, the Rt Rev David Atkinson, as his Diocesan Lent Project with parishioners and church schools hoping to raise as much as possible by August.