Royal honour for church stalwart and charity worker

Muriel Harris has been awarded a BEM in the New Year's Honours list.  Picture by Jane Coltman.

Muriel Harris has been awarded a BEM in the New Year's Honours list. Picture by Jane Coltman.

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Morpeth pensioner Muriel Harris’ tireless efforts to the community in her home town and destitute children in an area overseas have been recognised in the in the New Year’s Honours list.

The British Empire Medal (BEM) recipient has been a lay reader for 32 years and has taken services across the Anglican parish of Morpeth.

She continues to make regular and valued contributions to the ministry and she uses her home for charity events such as coffee mornings to raise funds for the church.

Over the past 14 years, the 83-year-old has been part of the team working for Practical Compassion for Destitute Children (PcDc), a North East charity working with disadvantaged children in the Palestine region – an area the charity states as ‘lands of the Bible’.

She is one of a dedicated team who regularly visit about 200 children known to the organisation, mainly through a number of schools in the conflict-hit West Bank.

The former teacher and headteacher speaks with the children and listens to the issues they face on a daily basis. She also gives them money presents, clothing such as t-shirts and sweaters, and donations of football equipment on a few occasions, that have been provided by sponsors.

The charity supports Muslim, Christian and Jewish youngsters.

Muriel and her husband Geoff raise all the money for the twice-a-year visits from their own pocket, as well as helping to fund-raise for PcDc. Geoff, a former accountant, helps with the financial side.

Other family members are also involved in PcDc’s work and their grandchildren have been on visits to enable the children to have a conversation with a youngster of a similar age.

Muriel said: “We sponsored a child about 20 years ago and the next child we supported a few years later was an orphan.

“We asked PcDc if we could go to Palestine to visit him and as we got more involved with the charity, we organised trips to the region twice a year.

“We have a lot of friends out there and as well as giving out the presents, we take photos and get details for the updates to the sponsors about how their sponsored child is getting on.

“Some of the parents are unable to get a permit to take their children to hospital, so we take them to a hospital in Jerusalem. We also do home visits.

“I was completely bowled over to receive the BEM.

“I was amazed to discover that seven different people had written to the House of Commons about my work.”

“I regard this as an honour for the two teams I work with,” she added.

Muriel still carries out home communions, smaller services in residential homes and sick visiting for the parish.