Arnold Paynter, the founder of the Nuwara Eliya children’s Home is no more. The inspiring story of this courageous man is worth recording.
The Rev. and Mrs. A. S. Paynter had four children Ada (Mrs. Martyn Greet), Arnold, David and Eva (Mrs. Eton Darling). The Rev. Paynter died in the mission colony in the Himalayas and Mrs. Paynter passed away in Ceylon at the age of 99.
Arnold was born in 1897, the same year that Rev. and Mrs. Paynter founded the India Christian Mission in India. Arnold’s life thus became the Mission from beginning to end. He went to Breaks Memorial School at Otacamund, S, India. He was fine, fit, muscular and athletic, winning the quarter mile and all the long and high jump events in school. From there he wet to /trinity College Kandy, where he excelled in both studies and sports and edited a delightful school magazine.
From Trinity he volunteered for the first world war and was the youngest in his regiment just eighteen years. He had the misfortune of being gassed and shell-shocked, and was not expected to live. He spent long years in hospital in England and later in Ceylon, As his health improved he was taken up to Nuwara Eliya where he was pushed around in a wheel chair by his brother David.
When he had recovered partially, he qualified for a scholarship to Hertford College, Oxford, when his tutor thought very highly of him and his intelligence. He returned to Ceylon better, though still physically frail ad delicate looking but with spirit undaunted.
He then started accompanying his mother on her visits to the villages in the Uva. It was here that he first encountered and became deeply concerned with the problem of the many unfortunate Eurasian children there. The tragedy of these little neglected and forgotten waifs blond, blue-eyed, beautiful, but incredibly dirty, sickly over whelmed him. This became his greatest obsession.
He lived for two years in a little village hut in Uva, and set up a school for these children. He wanted to take them away from their environment, but the mothers would noto be persuaded. He fasted and prayed for two full weeks. The village women flocked around him and were terribly distressed. He looked so week and ill, that they wept and handed over five children to him.
He telegraphed his mother “I am coming, bringing in my sheaves.” He took the little ones up by bus to the small Paynter cottage at mahagastota, near Nuwara Eliya. And that, in 1924, was the beginning of the N’Eliya Children’s Homes, now called the paynter Homes.
And the Homes grew through the years. Most members of the Paynter family and many other fine people were drawn into the work. I remember the early days when on the foot – hills of Pidurutalagala Fraser house was Being built by Arnold and the staff. He was a half Japanese. He knew a lot about building and the children helped.
There were no “Basses” anywhere, but there was Arnold standing precariously on a centre strut and children all over the place holding planks in position and nailing things all over orderly and controlled, and the house was built.
It is there today – though it has now been taken over by the Government. Alas! This building was used as the Homes School and a portion was used as the boys’ dormitories. A house was built soon after for the girls.
There was never any capital behind this venture, or any other venture of Arnold’s. But his parents gave every encouragement. Even today the work continues on a basis of faith and voluntary support.
From the Home grew the Himalayan Colony; now a fully mechanized farm run by the colonists themselves. There were all originally boys and girls from the homes that started in 1924.
First came the Children’s Homes. That was his life and his very being. Then came the Colony and the rest of the staff had to take over the Homes. It was a tremendous boon that Arnold’s sister Ada and her husband Martin Greet were on the job. To Ada they owe their special choir tradition. It has been maintained by sister Eva, and her daughter Averill.
Arnold had a coronary thrombosis. This slowed him down, but now and then, there would be spurts of terrific activity.
It was almost entirely through his efforts that Indra Green was whisked over to Houston for his heart operation. It was again Arnold’s idea to start the farm near Trincomalee for the bigger boy’s from the Children’s Homes as an extension of this work. It was successfully carried out by his brother David, who sacrificed his own work for this cause. I must refer to the work of Arnold and Val in the village of Yatigaloluwa, near Polgahawela where they lived for several years. Caring for the numerous lepers there became their deep concern during these years and paying special attention to the needs of children occupied their time.
So many moving letters have been received by Mrs, Darling about Arnold. One friend writes “So few understood him and mistook his love for weakness. Now every wish of his which was unfulfilled will be a command. He was more than a great man. He was a saint. Unsung no doubt on this earth, but there is rejoicing for him in heaven.”