Missionaries of charity, Calcutta
Kolkata, India. March 25th, 2010
Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of charity offer volunteer opportunities in the poorest parts of Calcutta and other cities for every visitor who is willing to help.
We donate food for the orphans resident at the center.
||Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa), Calcutta
||The Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center is a non-profit organization established and directed by the religious family founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the Missionaries of Charity.
||Mother Teresa founded MC (Missionaries of Charity) in 1950
||40 sisters, 30 candidates, about 15 volunteers work here, they stay somewhere between 2 weeks and 6 months
||5,000 Rupees (111 USD)
We don’t need to search long for a Cause in Calcutta. Everybody associates this city with charity, because it was in the streets of Calcutta that Mother Teresa began her mission. Now, more than a decade after her passing, her organisation, Missionaries of Charity, is represented in far over 100 countries. We visit the “Mother’s House” where we have a glimpse at her tomb, a simple marble square decorated with flowers. It is explicitly allowed to take pictures of the grave. We ask whom we should talk to if we would like to make a donation and wanted to be shown around, and they send us to another building.
It is one of the orphanages run by the organisation, and they are just enrolling volunteers. Dozens of foreigners have flocked to the building and await their turn patiently on wooden benches in the courtyard. Everybody is accepted here upon presentation of their passport. No need of police clearance, application forms and fees, proof of experience in interacting with ovc’s – it is working according to what we have in mind. The volunteers are sent to orphanages or centers that take care of the fatally ill and destitute in high density areas, where they help out with all daily chores and basically relieve the burden of the nuns.
We talk to some volunteers about their work here.
“The Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center is a non-profit organization established and directed by the religious family founded by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the Missionaries of Charity.
The Center’s aim is to serve as a centralized and authoritative source of information on Mother Teresa, to facilitate the spread of authentic devotion to her, and to safeguard her words and image from misuse or abuse. The founding of such a Center was first proposed by the Office of the Postulation of Mother Teresa in 2002 and is a development of that Office’s work of supporting authentic devotion and knowledge of Mother Teresa. “
We conduct a short interview with Eliza, a Canadian lady in her fifties volunteering here.
How did you find out about it?
-It is very well-known. This is my second time here, and I know about it through word of mouth.
How long will you be in India?
-This time I spend one year here, for travelling and meditation. It’s my fifth time in India.
What was your first experience like?
-Here in Shishubavan I worked with children for ten days, feeding and changing them, and giving physical therapy. My first time working for Missionaries of Charity however was in Khaligat, and that was a very special experience. I worked with adolescents there.
What is it that makes it special?
-The motto “do all you do with love.” They don’t ask special questions, no training is necessary, you are asked to do all sort of things. In Khaligat I ended up giving out medicine and massaging them.
Do you encounter any language problems?
-Often they don’t speak English, but we can use sign language. Or just hold hands, when emotional support is needed.
Have you done volunteering in other countries?
-No. It is not easy to find ways to do it.
Missionaries of Charity was originally published on Meandering home
The plan is to organize an exhibition of the art created by the children at Muodjo. Potential benefactors will visit that display of the streetkids’ interesting drawings and might chip in. So Oswaldo and I take a bus to the city and look for materials. Since we can’t find them, we end up hanging out in the German cultural center where I talk to the local coordinator of DED. He seems interested in our story but of course doubts if we can organize it all by ourselves, “bypassing” as we call it, bulky bureaucracies.
It is a lazy day let me not pretend otherwise. Oswaldo takes me around Maputo a bit more and shows me a ruined grand colonial house. As I observe the dilapidated balconies I see a few children sneak into the building.
“They live here” Oswaldo explains.
Yes, they do, and now they come to ask us for something to eat. My friend gives them a few Meticaisand we continue. Even though I haven’t actually seen the living condition of Maputo’s street children, their sleeping places, their diet, abuse, sickness, I understand they are not living happy lives.
Oswaldo used to live on the streets himself, before he was rescued from the streets and brought up by missionaries. He was a good student and went on to study musicology, and actually earned a degree. Many of the projects at Muodjo involve traditional instruments from Mocambique or Zimbabwe.
February 3. Streetkids. was originally published on Meandering home
We take a comfortable bus to Maputo. The roads on the South African side are what you would expect in the European Union and as the road cuts through the large cultivated fields we realize that South Africa is a rich country with a poverty problem – not a poor country with a rich upperclass problem like so many in Africa.
The border imposes no burden on the traveler’s mind, it is rather easy to purchase our visas for Mocambique, and we continue with a smile having left yet another minor incertainty behind us. The bus drops us somewhere in the center and we walk a few blocks to get a grip of this new city. We try several atm’s and public phones to no avail. When we finally get hold of a working phone (the owner is a Danish ngo worker working on “concepts” who could not have shown less interest in Charity Travel), it is too late to ask our host to stay with her, so we leave things to luck which of course works out just fine. Some Spanish and German girls, working here as volunteers, know the location of the city’s sole backpackers dorm (Fatima’s backpackers) and we are safe for the night. The place looks like a typical South American hostel with playfully painted walls and curved furniture. The dormitory itself is merely functional, like some of the staff – we use this place only for sleeping.
February 1. Rolling on to Maputo. was originally published on Meandering home
We work together in the Café de la Crème in Randburg, which has a working wireless connection. At 10pm, after loads of emails and blogposts, we decide it’s late enough and return home.
January 31. I challenge you to write a more boring blogpost! was originally published on Meandering home
We visit a Charity Shop in the morning and have a bad experience with the owner. We introduce ourselves and Charity Travel, the rough style. Let me reconstruct the words of the prissy decadent shopkeeper.
“We’re looking to do somethin’ good. Maybe you could link us to some small-scale ngo around here?”
-“You guys are crazy.”
“We could help campaigning against HIV/Aids and…”
-“You are untrained.” (how the &”%* does she know? And we ARE experienced)
“We could assist in an orphanage and…”
-“Who knows maybe you are going to eat the kids. I send you there and the next thing I hear is a kid has disappeared. Maybe you can do this in other countries of Africa where they still DO eat humans (sic!) but not here.”
“Thank you very much.”
And we turn our back on the Charity Shop, giggling about this somewhat sad experience on our way to a huge shopping mall where we get a computer for Yeon so that we can work simultaneously on the documentation of our project.
At night I improvise a tomato soup. Not that it’s relevant, but still.
January 30. You are untrained. was originally published on Meandering home
Now we walk along the highway to Kempton park, take a minibus to downtown and swoosh up the 50 floor Carlton center tower to oversee the city. Square blocks, highrises. Only the distant African landscape reminds us we are still in Africa. We see buses meandering around Ghandi square, and being fans of Ghandi we decide to go there and sit down in the shadow of his statue.
We do some shopping. The purchase of a South African SIM card and we connect to Etienne, our couchsurfing host. He is available at night so we spend a worry free afternoon in downtown Joburg. The purchase of a nailclipper further removes some rough edges. And the purchase of a banana keeps me going until we arrive in Randburg, a quiet neighbourhood north of Johannesburg that makes both of us feel we are in Los Angeles.
We eat out in a Vietnamese restaurant that serves a good, yet westernized version of Vietnamese porc chops and noodles. After dinner, in a nice cocktail bar, we have a watery whisky cocktail whose description tastes better than its actual ingredients.
January 29. Whiskey cocktail? was originally published on Meandering home
We take an early morning matatu to the Donholm junction and change bus to the airport. Some writing in the departure hall, an expensive breakfast larded with a guilty feeling, an abundant intake of cappuccino and avocado sandwich, a safe flight to Johannesburg with a random encounter of sorts.
Wycliffe, my seat neighbour, is a Kenyan musicologist from the village neighbouring the one where we have just built the Rainbow Center. He knows Churchill, one of the community elders. It is unbelievable, we talk politics, one of his passions, and he explains the intriguing history of post-independence Kenya to me. Kenyatta, Moi, Mboya, Luo, Kikuyu. Wycliffe studies in Durban, writing a PhD on music education – and I want to link him up with our center for future implementation of his programs. It is an amazing encounter and Yeon is equally surprised when we meet her in the arrival hall of Johannesburg’s all world cup ready airport.
Since we don’t fancy a stay in one of the expensive guesthouse on offer, nor feel like a noctornal walk in the worlds worst reputed city, we end up crashing on the metal chairs in a corner. Matt, a Canadian traveler heading for Zambia to volunteer for a school, gives us a mat to lay on.
January 28.Amazing Seat Neighbour Coincidence. was originally published on Meandering home