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Inverness woman's pledge to the poor the poor of India

By Rosemary Lowne

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Pamela Lemon has put her faith to the test by working with the poor and disadvantaged in West Bangal.
Pamela Lemon has put her faith to the test by working with the poor and disadvantaged in West Bangal.

Pamela Lemon has put her faith to the test by working with the poor and disadvantaged in West Bangal.


WITNESSING an eight-year-old girl die on the streets of Kolkata in India and helplessly watching as the child’s mother picked her dead child up to beg for food, deeply affected Pamela Lemon.

"The child just died and nobody bothered about her, no ambulance came," recalls Mrs Lemon.

"You would never know what happened to her, nobody cared."

The horrific situation is one of many Mrs Lemon, from Ardendrain, Kiltarlity, has come across since she started visiting Kolkata, in West Bengal, in 2005 to help women and children in the poverty-stricken Indian city.

"Back in 2004, I had felt I wanted to do some work overseas and I wasn’t sure what," explained Mrs Lemon who retired from her job in the personnel department of Highland Council last year.

"I was supposed to go to Nepal with a world exchange but they were not happy with the political situation in the country and it would have been unsafe for me to travel."

While researching other charity work, Mrs Lemon came across a project being run by the Sisters of the Cross in the Navjeevan region of Mumbai and went out to work with them for three months.

"When I came home I just couldn’t get it out my system and I went back with my husband Allan that same year," said the 58-year-old.

"It has changed my life and made me appreciate the things you do have.

"The film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is very, very, very true to life, that’s how these kids live, except they don’t have the happy ending."

Determined to make a difference in Kolkata, Mrs Lemon set up the Kids of Kolkata Dochas Trust in 2008, a Christian based organisation, became a trustee and has so far raised £30,000 to help ease suffering, especially among children.

"If you can help them just a teeny wee bit, it’s better than not to help them at all," added Mrs Lemon. "People say to me there are a lot of people in this country that have a hard time so why go all the way to India.

"But being poor here is not like being poor there."

For her next trip to Kolkata on 26th October this year, Mrs Lemon has her sights firmly set on building a safe house for women in the Kallighat area where there are approximately 20,000 sex workers.

"The prostitutes in this area go back four generations," Mrs Lemon explained.

"What we are trying to do is break the cycle of the sex trade and find other ways for them to make a living.

"These women have terrible lives and some have no choice. We are trying to set up a refuge out there within that area."

As well as helping to support women forced into prostitution, Mrs Lemon and her husband, 59-year-old Allan who also travels to India to help with the projects, work tirelessly to help vulnerable children.

"We have already helped to support a home for children in an area called Howrah," said Mrs Lemon. "A lot of children are runaways and are vulnerable to be picked up by paedophile rings.

"The boys and girls have no money and get addicted to glue to stop hunger pangs.

"It’s really so sad as the girls very often get pregnant and the person we work with out there has picked up a number of newly born-dead babies at the side of the railway line, which is quite horrific."

The drop-in centre is situated close to Howrah Station, in West Bengal, where the children live on the tracks and provides a place where youngsters of all ages can be safe and get something to eat.

For the past two years, The Kids of Kolkata Dochas Trust has supported a widow called Moon Singh and her two daughters, Aipshikha and Nitisha.

From the support received from the trust, the widow has moved into a new home and her daughters are now in education.

Ask Mrs Lemon, who is also an Inverness street pastor along with her husband, if she is a very caring person for doing the work that she does, she is extremely modest.

"I don’t think I’m any more caring than anyone else, I feel this is what I’m meant to be doing. It’s very hard to do that work if you don’t have some kind of inner strength and for me it was my faith.

"I was in some horrible situations but I really felt that was where I was meant to go and wanted to do.

"Kolkata is not fashionable and it lives in the past but there are changes happening."

For more information go to www.kidsofkolkata.co.uk or email KidsofKolkata@aol.com

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