Exciting News For Sreepur Village Charity

"Pat Mummy" with some of the children from the village Pic: Sreepur Village

Last year in “The People’s Friend” Janey Swanson told the story of Sreepur Village, Bangladesh, a charity that believes poverty should not separate children from their family. We’re delighted to say that Sreepur Village has now made the shortlist for this year’s prestigious Charity Awards. Enjoy hearing about the charity once again…

For over 30 years Pat Kerr has been called “Pat Mummy” by thousands of children in Bangladesh.

“I feel very honoured to have been given this name,” Pat says. She is founder of the Sreepur Village, a UK based charity which provides shelter, food and hope to vulnerable mothers and children in Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Strongly believing that poverty should not tear children from their mothers, Sreepur Village currently provides over 400 mothers and children with a place they can call home, where they can transform their lives with educational and vocational skills.

“Sreepur Village is like an enormous extended family,” Pat, who lives in Sreepur Village, explains. “Children are running around, women are shouting at each other one minute, hugging each other the next, and there’s laughter everywhere.”

Pat first came to Bangladesh in 1981, when she was a purser on British Airways flights from London to Dhaka. “On one of our regular three-day stop-overs in Dhaka, the crew decided they wanted to help somewhere,” Pat recalls.

“I went exploring and came across an overcrowded, run-down orphanage.

The children gave me such a lovely welcome, I couldn’t walk away.

Pat and her colleagues offered to help at the orphanage whenever they were in Dhaka, and soon realised that many of the children had been abandoned by mothers who had no money, no food, no home and no husband.

“In Bangladesh, single mothers really struggle,” Pat explains. “For many of these desperate women, their only option was to leave their children at the orphanage.”

Pat explains that, although she enjoyed helping to care for the children, she’d no intentions of being anything other than a volunteer until the charity that ran the orphanage was served with an eviction notice.

Pat and her BA colleagues suggested raising money to build a refuge for families, where single mothers and their children could live in safety and build a new future together.

With financial support from British Airways and other donors, Sreepur Village was built about 40 miles from Dhaka.

Growing vegetables at Sreepur Village Pic: Sreepur Village

Growing vegetables at Sreepur Village Pic: Sreepur Village

“As well as accommodation for over two hundred women and their children, Sreepur Village had a kitchen, a school, sports facilities, a farm, a health clinic, and workshops where single mothers would learn skills that would enable them to care for their children and make a living,” Pat explains.

Sreepur Village has been life-changing for the women and children… and Pat

When Sreepur Village welcomed its first residents in 1988, Pat stayed on for another two years to set up the project and develop a management structure.

“I continued to be closely involved in Sreepur Village, which by then was a charity in its own right,” Pat says. “However, managing Sreepur Village was demanding, so I stopped working for British Airways and moved to rural Bangladesh to live and work alongside the mothers and children our charity was helping.”

Pat explains that mothers and their children live in Sreepur Village for up to three years.

The women learning new skills Pic: Sreepur Village

The women learning new skills Pic: Sreepur Village

“Often, this is the first time these women have felt safe. As single mothers, they’ve had very difficult lives.

“In many cases, their husband has left them, they’ve escaped a violent marriage or they were tricked into thinking they were married.

“Some are widows who were no longer welcome in their husband’s family home after he died.

“We give these women skills such as tailoring, weaving, farming and embroidery that will enable them to live independently and with dignity, either by finding a job or setting up their own small business,” Pat continues.

“They also attend childcare, literacy and numeracy classes and are paid to work in the laundry, the child and mother care section, or other areas of the project.

Over half of each mother’s salary is saved so that, when she leaves Sreepur Village, she will have money of her own, usually for the first time in her life.

Pat reveals that, while in the village, children eat well, have regular health checks, make friends and receive a good education.

“Children have a wonderful time here and, when they leave, we monitor that they remain in school,” she says.

“Many of the children from Sreepur Village now have good jobs.

“I’m often visiting a hospital, a hotel or a factory and one of our ex-children will rush up to say hello to Pat Mummy!

“My time at Sreepur Village was supposed to be a small part of a rounded life, but somehow it became my entire life,” Pat says, smiling warmly.

“I’m incredibly privileged to be able to help these children and their mothers. It’s wonderful to be part of the Sreepur Village family.”

Ripa’s Story

Mother-of-three Ripa Begum was homeless, hungry and penniless when she sought shelter at Sreepur Village.

Determined to be able to take care of her family single-handedly, Ripa participated in many of Sreepur Village’s training programmes, including tailoring.

When Ripa and her children left Sreepur Village in 2021, the single mum successfully applied for a full-time job as a tailor, while also using her savings to buy a sewing machine and start her own clothes-making business.

“Ripa’s now highly respected in her village and is earning enough to send her children to school and university,” Pat says proudly.

Charity Awards’ Nominee

We’ve just learned that Sreepur Village has made the shortlist for this year’s Charity Awards, the longest-running and most prestigious awards scheme in the charity sector.

Sreepur Village has been shortlisted in the International Aid & Development category for its Climate Crisis project which aims to transform the lives of female-led families in Bangladesh by providing them with safe refuge, vocational, educational and technological skills, healthcare as well as equipping their communities with emergency supplies in times of a crisis. The category winners of the Charity Awards will be announced on June 7. Good luck Sreepur Village!

Find out more about The Sreepur Village Charity

The Sreepur Village Bangladesh, 78 Beckenham Road, Beckenham, Kent BR3 4RH. Telephone: 020 8658 7585 Website: www.sreepurvillage.org.