Dr. Jack Preger, M.B.E. is a British physician, born in Manchester, England. His story is astonishing, yet it is relatively unknown.
One day in 1965, as a 35-year old farmer driving his tractor on a remote cliffside setting in Wales spreading manure, Jack Preger suddenly felt 'compelled' -- to become a medical doctor.
This out-of-the-blue 'command' was as outrageous as it was illogical. He had then no interest in medicine, it would mean selling his farm in a depressed property market, and somehow finding a place in medical school. It would clearly turn his whole life upside down.
Notwithstanding, and as the days passed, he found no way of resisting this irreversible and peremptory order somehow implanted in his brain, and coming out of nowhere.
It's a long story, but he was subsequently enrolled as a mature student at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, and completed his internship - at the age of 42.
In 1972, he answered an appeal for doctors to help with the refugee crisis in Bangladesh. He not only witnessed unimaginable human suffering there, he exposed an evil child-trafficking operation implicating people in high authority. This had him arrested and deported in 1979. The Dhaka clinic he had set up for mothers and babies in 1975 was closed down. The patients were thrown out on the street. Some died as a result.
Jack subsequently moved to Calcutta (now renamed Kolkata) to work for Mother Teresa, but discovered that hands-on medicine and fervent religious devotion are not compatible. Since he had no license to practice legally in India, he began treating the sick and injured where they lay - under bridges, on railway platforms and in drainage pipes - but found difficulty following cases up, as the police were constantly moving them on.
Setting up the main 'Consulting Centre' on the pavement Patients' medical records were stored in the metal boxes.
Jack sat on the blue stool. When I first saw him here, he was perched on an upturned wooden crate.
Finally, he spread the word that he would treat people at the roadside outside St Thomas' Presbytery, where he was allowed to store his medical supplies. This was in in a Calcutta side street (off busy Park Street) called Middleton Row.
During rainstorms,the tarpaulins had to be emptied every few minutes to prevent
them collapsing under the weight of water.
Under sagging tarpaulins this unlikely 'pavement clinic' grew steadily, seared by sun and soaked by tropical rains. Joined by volunteers astonished and motivated by his example, and supported by donations from those who witnessed his selfless work, Jack sat at the side of the road, six days a week, providing free medical treatment to the destitute street dwellers of Calcutta.
Patients were treated here free, including the costs of X-Rays, laboratory tests, drugs and surgery. They also received food supplements and travelling expenses - many came a day's journey away.
The 'clinic' stretched for about 50-70 metres along the pavement comprising several sections; wound and burn treatments & dressings, a central 'consultation centre' where Jack sat, medical records, pharmacy, dispensary and a 'welfare department' which distributed food, clothing, and small amounts of money to pay for transportation - many patients travelled miles to reach the clinic. When necessary, the 'examination room' was simply a piece of cloth held up to provide some measure of privacy.
The patients formed long queues which stretched all along the Middleton Row pavement. Many were so poor
they could not afford to buy shoes. (see the rickshaw driver photograph on the next page
taken 28 years later- not much has changed)
It is difficult for most people to imagine sitting at the side of a polluted Calcutta street for more than 14 minutes. Jack's clinic operated like this for 14 years.
And that was certainly not all. During all this time, Jack was hounded and harassed by local authorities for his 'illegal status' threatened by Mafia groups, and at one stage thrown into Alipore Jail. His case dragged on for years whilst the Middleton Row clinic carried on its vital work at the side of the road, on occasions treating up to 500 patients a day - that' more than the passenger load of a full Boeing 747.
Finally Jack was successful in registering Calcutta Rescue as an official body whose vital work carries on to this day.
What's more, Jack is still working tirelessly over there, despite the fact that he will turn 87 on 25th July 2017. His contribution to the poor of this huge city is one of the greatest of any person in modern history. Yet - so few people know!
Forwarding this web site link to like-minded friends or colleagues will help to get his story out to the world.
A long way from Middleton Row - three decades later - Jack (seated inside)
at Tala Park, one of the four different Calcutta Rescue clinics which operate today.
If you would like to help, and have administrative, medical or other useful skills, you can also choose to
become a volunteer either in your own country, or in Calcutta (see links page 6)
If you feel motivated to support his work, it is important that you read the next page.
...But the toll on
Preger was not just physical. Another time, a guard at a shelter run by
Mother Teresa refused to admit two dying famine victims because it was
past 6 p.m. An enraged Preger grabbed the crucifix hanging from the
man’s neck and twisted it until the man started to choke.
“In the name of Christ,” Preger roared, “let us in!”
Terrified, the guard complied.
-Reader's Digest article: "He Never Stops Caring"