Stella Jane Reekie was born on 29 July 1922, youngest of the eight children of Arthur and Jane Reekie, growing up two miles outside Gravesend, England. In 1943 Stella was living in Hammersmith and working in the war-time nursery at Cadby Hall. She was very deeply affected when the house she was living in was bombed and the girl she shared it with was injured and blinded. One evening she went to the Greek Embassy and saw a film shown by the Red Cross, about the distress in Europe, the hunger and the poverty, and the need for relief workers. She joined the Red Cross and took evening lectures, while continuing her own work during the day, in preparation for work among refugees overseas.
Early in 1945 she sailed with other team workers to Belgium. While they were there, an S.O.S. was received from the front line. The Polish School of Bergen-Belsen was the setting in which Stella became a prolific and enthusiastic worker.
After approaching the Foreign Mission Committee of the Church of Scotland through the Presbyterian Church in Gravesend, Stella studied at St Colm's College in Edinburgh for two years, from 1949 to 1951. In 1951, she sailed from Liverpool with other missionaries on the S.S. Cilicia bound for Karachi and Bombay. After a period of language study, Stella was appointed to take charge of the work amongst women in the Sialkot district of Karachi.
She worked at the Welfare Centre, where daily clinics were held for mothers and children, and local midwives were given training. In a land still very much influenced by the orthodox view of a woman’s place in society, the influence of the Bible teachers was vital. Stella visited the villages to bring assurance of concern to scattered Christian groups, and into Muslim homes.
In 1968 Stella headed back to Scotland as huge cultural change was underway. In the late 1900s many Asian people were coming to the industrial cities of the UK and the YMCA and the churches were exploring ways of serving the growing number of immigrants in Scotland.
Stella and her friends were already visiting Asian families in their homes. They found many of them reluctant to open their doors more than an inch, but when Stella spoke in Urdu the doors were opened wide. In March 1969, Stella was appointed by the Home Board of the Church of Scotland to work three days a week among immigrant women in Glasgow. After six months it was agreed that the churches should adopt a united approach to work with immigrant groups.
In 1969, Stella and others searched for suitable accommodation in order to offer hospitality to any person in transit for official reasons, or stranded and in need. After a time it was agreed that her own rented flat in Glasgow, should receive official recognition as the centre for the work.
Three years later, through the purchase by the Church of Scotland of a large flat, the International Flat was established. Within the International Flat she managed to create a truly family atmosphere, a home, to which everyone was welcome, day or night. Staffing numbers grew in the flat and as Stella’s health started to deteriorate she got assistance from many others who wished to ensure that the work of the flat continued.
Stella had died on 28 September 1982 having survived both a mastectomy operation in 1974 and being diagnosed with cancer of the spine in 1980. She fought on indomitably, refusing to let her illness influence what she wanted to do.
Thanks to educationscotland.gov.uk for this information. © Crown copyright 2012
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