When Evelyn Smith
founded the Canaan Christian Centre
in 1978, her aim was to provide a safe haven for women fleeing domestic violence, and give needy youngsters a chance to enjoy a holiday by the sea. But, thanks to the generosity of local people, she has been also been able to help orphans and troubled families from as far afield as Nigeria
Born in India, Miss Smith, 69, says her desire to help needy children was fostered as a toddler, when, stepping off the boat to come and live in the UK, she saw youngsters being mistreated. Aged 15, she ran an after-school club for the children’s charity National Children’s Homes and, after leaving school, spent two years training at bible college in London.
Her first posting found her living in a former rectory at Little Barningham in North Norfolk while travelling all over the UK to run summer camps for youngsters. While running a youth club at nearby Baconsthorpe in the 1970s, she met 15-year-old orphan June Coghlan and, the life-long friends decided to set up Canaan in a bungalow on Holt Road
in Sheringham, to help troubled single families.
Over the years, the centre’s work expanded to include a lunch club, children’s clubs and a nursery, along with a number of orphanages and children’s homes in Hungary
where a sister centre, Kanaan Haz
was founded a decade ago. Miss Smith and her team still make regular trips to carry out improvements, but now semi-retired, Miss Smith relies on volunteers to take charge of cooking, cleaning and gardening.
The Hungarian musicians, who performed at Cromer, Aylsham, Overstrand and Sheringham,
travelled to the UK to raise funds for projects run by Hungarian aid worker Kornel Szilagyi
, whom Miss Smith met 12 years ago at a conference in Budapest. Their meeting sparked a friendship that would see north Norfolk people raise cash to bring Hungarian youngsters to north Norfolk for holidays, and send gifts and clothing to children living in orphanages and on the streets.
For more information about the Canaan Christian Centre,
or phone 01263 511732
to talk to Evelyn, or call the centre on 01263 824300
Canaan Christian Centre
21 Holt Road, Sheringham NR11 6LJ
Registered Charity No: 284117