Dr Jack Preger has been working to serve the poor who live on the streets of Kolkata for decades. He is also someone who has fought child trafficking- something that has brought him a fair amount of suffering.

For his selfless contribution, the 86 year old was awarded the ‘Philanthropist of the Year’ award at the Asian Awards ceremony in London- the first living Westerner to be honored in such a manner.

Not keen on academic life, he moved to the medical life

A legend when it comes to selfless service, Perger studied political science and then economics at Oxford University. But then, not satisfied with an academic life, he studied medicine in Dublin, Ireland. His initial plan was to serve the poor in Latin America. That was when the tales of extreme distress in Bangladesh reached his ears. Perger moved to that country.

As preparation, he discarded Spanish lessons and learnt Urdu and Bangla, so he could work in Dhaka’s slums and refugee camps. Preger even set up a clinic there. He came to learn about a child trafficking racket, run in conjunction between social organizations and corrupt government officials. When Preger meddled, he was asked to focus on medical work and not involve in controversial matters. However, he continued voicing against the racket. He got asked to leave Bangladesh.

Instead of returning to the UK, Preger moved to Kolkata. There, he treated the homeless and the slum-dwellers. There too, he campaigned against child trafficking, as a result of which he found himself on the bad book of the West Bengal government.

Tension between the government and the doctor escalated. The doctor’s right to serve the city’s poorest was questioned repeatedly. He was harassed multiple times citing legal details. In fact, he even had to do a stint in the jail. However, thanks to those who saw, appreciated and supported his work, it continued.

Eventually, the doctor, along with his co-workers founded Calcutta Rescue- a formal organization which could receive donations. Clinics were established. According to an estimate, the organization has provided medical treatment to half a million people in the last four decades.

The organization’s work broadened to the education sector, thanks to which children from poor families could enjoy better educational opportunities and daily transport. Another task that Calcutta Rescue also did well was bringing safe drinking water to some of the arsenic affected villages. Also, in many villages they encouraged the villagers to take up vocational skills to support themselves. Some of the cottage scale units that were set up in such villages make the material for dressing wounds.

Dr Preger’s dedication to serving the poor and oppose injustice, along with his adamantine willpower to continue working in the face of opposition have made him a legend of sorts.

Image credits: thewire.in

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