Murdered British charity worker rules slum children’s hearts (With Images)December 23rd, 2011 - 12:30 pm ICT by IANS
Dharamsala, Dec 23 (IANS) He may have been brutally murdered here five years ago, but British charity worker Michael Blakey continues to live in the hearts of schoolchildren who have been rehabilitated from slums and adopted by the charity he helped found in this north Indian town made famous by the Dalai Lama.
“Michael is still in our hearts. He’s helping us a lot to get an education and to lead a dignified and happy life. He’s very dear to us,” 12-year-old Pinky Haryan, a Class 6 student, told IANS.
Pinky is getting a better shot at life, thanks to the Tong-len Charitable Trust started by Michael and currently being run by Jamyang, a local Tibetan monk who also has the blessings of the Dalai Lama, who lives here as do thousands of exiled Tibetans.
Michael’s parents, Paul and Mary, have adopted Pinky after the murder of their 23-year-old son. Paul came here last month from Britain when the Dalai Lama inaugurated a new children’s hostel of the charity.
Pinky, who was rehabilitated from the Charan Khad slum when she was just five, wants to be a doctor. “I want to become a doctor and serve humanity,” she said.
Jamyang told IANS that Michael’s parents are committed to funding Pinky’s higher education too. He said after Michael’s murder, his parents and friends had raised 29,955 pounds (over Rs.24 lakh in Indian currency) for setting up a centre for impoverished children.
“His last dream was to buy a piece of land and build a hostel for rehabilitating the slum children. The amount collected under the Michael Blakey Memorial Fund was used for raising a hostel,” he added.
Michael’s portrait hangs at the entrance of the hostel.
“He came here to help poor children. He died an unnatural death, but still continues to live in our hearts,” say Kavita and Deepak Kumar, both adopted by the charity.
The charity looks after schooling and hostel facilities of the adopted children. Starting with 20 children in 2005, it now has 57 boarders in three hostels located on the outskirts of the town. Seventeen children were adopted last month - all below three years of age.
Michael’s murder is still a mystery.
He was bludgeoned to death after two years of his stay in Dharamsala. His body was found beneath boulders in a shallow stream running through an old British cemetery. His autopsy reports confirmed he had been beaten to death.
According to police, Michael first visited Dharamsala in 2004. At that time, he met Briton Rachel Owen, who was planning to run a charity here. Michael showed interest in the charity and helped her form the Tong-len charity.
Between 2004 and 2006, both visited Britain many times to generate funds for the charity.
On Nov 26, 2006, Michael suddenly went missing from the monastery where he was staying. His body was found in the graveyard two days after his disappearance. It was sent to his family in Britain after post-mortem.
Police have questioned Owen’s Indian husband as a suspect. Later, he migrated to Scotland with his wife.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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