Kandy is a city which is home to some terrible poverty. Many children, perhaps through becoming orphaned or perhaps because their parents were too poor too look after them scrape out a living on the cities streets. Often sleeping on the streets or in rough hovels, every day brings the same struggle to find food to feed themselves and the same, constant danger from violence, abuse and exploitation.

Through offering shelter and an education, New Lives aims to provide these children with safety and the skills that will help them build a future for themselves and escape the terrible trap of poverty.

Every so often you hear about someone who is ‘a bit different’ or ‘slightly off beat’ or in extreme, ‘a visionary’.

Pauline Colley was such a person.

To the outside world, she was someone approaching middle age with three grown up children. She worked in a clerical position in the city of London. Quite ordinary in fact. That’s the stage where things began to change. In the early 1990's she decided to sell up and travel the world.

During her travels she stopped in Sri Lanka at a town called Kandy. She noted the contrasts of wealth and poverty, as all western travelers do. She saw children living in hovels or on the streets. Many were at the roadside begging with their mothers. She left and traveled on but the image stayed with her and the germ of an idea to ‘do something’ began.

She formed the idea that to stop the children begging, the mothers must be given a chance too. She thought of building a Hostel where mothers could live with their children. They would be given the opportunity to learn that they could have better lives than begging and living in the streets.

Pauline did more than dream about such a project; she went back to Sri Lanka. She made contact with the women and children and the local help agencies. She found some land that could be used. She then resumed her travels. When she returned home to England she applied for charity status and the charity New Lives was formed.

All charities need Trustees and money. In her efforts to establish New Lives, she cajoled and begged. By sheer force of her personality and her enthusiasm she was able to begin negotiations for the land on the outskirts of Kandy to build a Hostel.

Pauline also publicized the plight of the children of the streets. She gave an interview on Barbara Sturgeon's programme on BBC Radio Kent. This interview was heard by some one living locally, Armitha Samarasinghe, who had emigrated from Sri Lanka to England forty years ago. He and his wife Colleen discussed the interview and they contacted Pauline. They became involved in the charity and went to Kandy with Pauline.

With the help of a single donation from a friend now living in Australia and with money raised by her local pub in Dartford, boot sales, fun runs etc., and the land was purchased. With the help of Armitha and relatives in Kandy, a branch of the charity was formed in Kandy.

A mutual friend, Sue Bobbins, heard of the charity and its aims and gave her support. The Trustee group was formed. Armitha became the Chairman, Colleen, the Treasurer and Sue, the Secretary.

Pauline's frustrations at not being able to action more quickly the contact with the families and children was evident. She wanted to be there, making contact and starting the project. The Trustees agreed that Pauline's enthusiasm and commitment would be better used in Sri Lanka than attempting to raise awareness and funds in England.

The Trustees continued to fund raise with coffee mornings, talks to local groups, boot sales etc. The charity raised enough money to return Pauline to Kandy with her partner Tony. Pauline and Tony began the process of building the Hostel and working with the families and children on the streets. The Trustees continued to raise money and collected basic items which all went towards making New Lives possible.

It has to be born in mind, that Pauline had no formal training, no previous experience and no formal government backing at that stage. She just an overwhelming belief that something should be done.

Eventually she made contact with a Dutch charity in the same area called Terre de Holme, and the Hostel began to be built. Although the Trustees in England continued to administer the Charity and raise money and collect items to furnish and equip the charity, the main function became focused in Kandy.

Tragically on one of her trips home to the UK Pauline was killed in a house fire. However, her vision was underway. The Hostel was completed and by scraping together funds it began to be used. Not for the original purpose, but for orphaned boys who live in the Hostel and they are being taught trades and basic skills to assist them in future life.

Pauline's eldest daughter Juliet asked Armitha and Colleen to take care of the charity as they were the origional fund raisers and committee members in the UK and in Sri Lanka from the inception. They gladly accepted the offer and have continued to support the project and visit the hostel regularly. The Hostel is now called The Pauline Colley Memorial Training and Rehabilitation Institute for the Homeless, Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Not quite what Pauline envisaged, but from her desire to help people living in distressing and hopeless poverty, within ten years, something positive has evolved.