The Duchess of Northumberland presented a Morpeth pensioner with her British Empire Medal during a special investiture ceremony at Alnwick Castle on Tuesday.
Muriel Harris was recognised in the New Year’s Honours list for her tireless efforts to the community in her home town and destitute children in an area overseas.
She has been a lay reader for 32 years and has taken services across the Anglican parish of Morpeth.
Her other contributions to the parish of Morpeth includes using her home for charity events such as coffee mornings to raise funds for the church.
Over the past 14 years, the 84-year-old has been part of the team working for Practical Compassion for Destitute Children, 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.
Muriel, who was joined at the ceremony by six family members and six members of the Morpeth parish, said: “It was a fantastic occasion and it was wonderful to meet the Duchess.
“She chatted with everyone present and was very interested to find out more about the work we’re doing, particularly in the Palestine region.”
The Duchess said: “To receive a British Empire Medal is an incredible achievement and it is a great pleasure to present this award to Muriel, who is a very worthy recipient.
“I’d like to congratulate her for her dedicated work and commitment over many years. She is a credit to her community and to Northumberland and an inspiration to us all.”