A RETIRED English teacher who made her first trip to southern India 20 years ago is celebrating having raised more than half a million pounds for a boys’ home and leprosy hospital there.

Kathy Miller says the charity she founded with her husband Ken following her "life-changing" visit could not have succeeded without the help of an army of loyal supporters, including family and friends.

"I could not have done anything without the local and very loyal support that I have had over the years.

"They have just been amazing, particularly Patricia Kinzett, who is a trustee of the charity. She has really helped me, especially since my husband Ken died six years ago."

Every year, the Neem Tree Trust raises about £20,000 for the SCHT Boys Home in Tirunelveli and around £10,000 for the St Luke’s Leprosy hospital in Tamil Nadu, both near Chennai.

Mrs Miller, 71, of Avoncliff, said: “When I first went to India in September 1999 I was 51 years old and about to set off to teach English to children in rural southern India.

“I had not visited India before nor in fact travelled anywhere on my own. I was leaving behind my husband, Ken, and two of our children who still lived at home, Alex and James.

“I knew that I would be travelling over 5,000 miles but I did not know how much my life would change. I stayed at a differently-abled boys’ home in the village of Anavarathanallur, not far from the southernmost tip of India.

“At the time, there were over 80 boys living there, all of whom had been affected by polio. I also visited and made friends with the staff and patients at a nearby leprosy hospital in the village of Peikulam.

“I was so humbled and impressed by the work at both centres that since my first visit in 1999 I have visited the boys’ home and the leprosy hospital every year.

“In 2003 my husband and I set up a UK registered charity to help support the children and patients at the two centres with both money and friendship.

“I run the charity from my home in Avoncliff just outside Bradford on Avon with minimal costs, as we have no salaried staff or expensive overheads.

“Sadly, I lost my lovely husband in October 2013 but I know he would be extremely proud that I am carrying on the work of the charity.”

The Trust's supporters include Alison and Mike Wells, who are about to step down from fundraising after raising more than £15,700 over 13 years. The couple will hold their last coffee morning for the Trust at home on Friday, November 1 from 10am to 12 noon.