**No Photo’s are allowed at Mother House (only her tomb). At my project “Prem Dan,” I got permission to take some on my last day**
Missionaries of Charity
This charity was founded by Mother Teresa in 1950. She was a Roman Catholic religious sister and missionary who lived most of her life in India. Missionaries care for those who are sick, mentally ill, dying, abandoned, lepers, disabled, blind and those with aids. These services are provided, without charge, to people regardless of their religion or social caste. Mother Teresa passed away on September 5, 1997 at the age of 87 from a heart attack.
I arrived at “Mother House” at 3pm. There were about 15 people there and we were grouped up by country (they had translators for those that don’t speak English). We were informed about each of the 6 houses/projects we could volunteer at and chose the one we wanted. I told the sister to place me where there was a greater need and she said, “Prem Dan.” In addition, we learned about all the professional beggars who linger around the area and were given other practical safety advice.
Day #1 volunteering:
I headed to ‘Mother House,” where all the volunteers meet in the morning to pray, eat a light breakfast and then break into groups according to the project we are working on. I was AMAZED at how many volunteers were here from ALL OVER THE WORLD!!! During my first week, there were over 150 volunteers including several groups from churches and universities!!!!
There is an INSTANT bond here. No one cares what you do for a living, where you graduated from, what car you drive and what connections you have etc. WE ALL have left our friends, family, children, pets, jobs, homes to come volunteer here (unpaid). Many have come alone, others with their significant other (can’t wait to do this type of stuff with my partner-in-crime one day), some with church groups and others through their universities. To make it more interesting, many have quit their jobs and are in transition, others on a school break or work seasonal jobs to have the time to do such work. Such an interesting mix of people!! The ages range from 18-65+. The majority stay for a few weeks up to 6 months and there is a handful that have been there for YEARS!!!
7am: Meet at “Mother House,” a great place to meet other volunteers and socialize and have a light breakfast (tea, bread, banana).
7:30am: Gather in groups based on which project we are working at (total of 6 houses) and head to our project. Some are near and some are far and we either walk or take a local bus. It is nice to have a group to walk with! If you manage to not get light-headed or nauseous during the 30 minute “in-your-face” walk to the project then your off to a good start
8am-12pm: The volunteer shift. We leave around noon and the walk back from my project (30-45 minutes during rush hour) or if we are exhausted we share a rickshaw. We all usually eat lunch together and share our experiences and immediately bond with one another. It’s a beautiful family.
12-3pm: All homes/projects are closed
3-5:30pm “Optional” an afternoon shift for those who have some extra energy and aren’t completely wiped out.
Thursdays: The day off for volunteers!
A walk to remember…
The 6 houses/projects:
- Nirmal Hriday aka “Kalighat”- Mother Teresa’s FIRST project founded in 1952. The hospice has around 80 patients, the majority destitute and dying.
- Prem Dan (MY PROJECT)- The larger hospice housing 300 patients that are sick, dying, disabled etc.
- Shishu Bhavan- A house for toddlers and handicapped children (up for adoption). *Only women volunteers*
- Daya Dan- A house for older handicapped children ages ranging from 7-18 years old.
- Shanti Dan- Rehabilitation Centre for Abandoned Women
- Nabo Jibon- Handicapped Men *Only male volunteers*