FROM farming in Wales to becoming a doctor and working in India, Dr Jack has come back to the UK after 40 years helping the poorest of the poor in Kolkata slums.

Dr Jack Preger MBE, one of Britain’s greatest unsung heroes, first opened his medical bag on the pavement in Kolkata following an ‘epiphany’ on a west Wales farm.

Now 88, he has survived persecution, prison and decades of self-imposed poverty in his unswerving commitment to dedicate his life to helping those in greatest need on the streets of Kolkata.

He was born to a Jewish family in Manchester in 1930. As a youngster he contemplated becoming a rabbi, got involved in the Zionist movement and then studied development economics at Oxford University.

Subsequently he became a farmer in Wales and, for eight years, ran a remote cliff-side farm near Cardigan.

One day in 1964, driving his tractor, ‘a mysterious voice’ told him to become a doctor - prompting him to sell the farm and start a degree in medicine, aged 35, at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, where he converted to Catholicism.

In the medical community he is widely regarded as the grandfather of street medicine and helped pioneer many of the practices used to treat the poor around the globe.

This includes work on TB, leprosy (Hansen’s disease) and Aids – and for many years his charity was the only place in Kolkata where people could get free HIV drugs.

He has helped well over 500,000 people and today, his award-winning charity Calcutta Rescue, runs clinics and schools for people living on the street and in some of the city’s most deprived slums.

Dr Jack’s work in Kolkata began after seven years in Bangladesh where the newly qualified doctor cared for traumatised civil war refugees. He set up a 90-bed clinic, before being deported in 1979 for exposing a child-smuggling ring.

He faced repeated challenges, from crime bosses to hostile bureaucrats who forced him to fight legal battles, stretching over a decade, to continue his lifesaving work, which even led to him being jailed at one point.

With support from the UK press and supporters around the world, including Sir Edmund Hillary who conquered Everest, he persevered and finally managed to establish Calcutta Rescue as an Indian-registered charity.

In 1993 Dr Jack was made a Member of the British Empire for his “continued perseverance and incredible selflessness” and in 2017 his extraordinary achievements were recognised at the Asian Awards in London, where he became the first living non-Asian to win an award.

Despite his age and failing eyesight, Dr Jack, has continued to play an important role in guiding the charity and until his departure was still visiting its clinics where he used his wisdom and huge experience to ensure patients received the best possible care.

Prior to his departure from India, Dr Jack thanked supporters in the UK and around the world and appealed for people to continue to support the work of Calcutta Rescue.

He said: “I hope your efforts as part of our organisation will continue because our work is outstanding and some of it is unique. Thank you very much for so many years of support.”

The charity’s chief executive Jaydeep Chakraborty, said: “Dr Jack has selflessly and quietly gone about his work of serving some of the poorest citizens in the world. Those of us who work with him have seen the manner in which he has done it and the things he has given up – he leads an almost monastic existence.

“He is unique. We are never going to have another Dr Jack but we have Calcutta Rescue, the organisation he founded, and what he has created for the people of Calcutta and West Bengal is immense and those people still need Calcutta Rescue's help.”