By Max Morrish
The past week of volunteering at the Mother Teresa homes in Kolkata has been an incredibly humanizing experience for every member of the Shiva Crew. The crew members were spread among several different homes, each of which specialized in housing and caring for patients with different needs ranging from mental illness to physical disabilities. Although each of the homes was tailored to a select type of patient, their common ground was that they all cared for individuals who were in extremely difficult situations.
There was a steep learning curve working in such an intense environment where a good portion of the jobs were unfamiliar and—at times—even verging on nasty. The work ranged from simple tasks like doing laundry or washing dishes, to more trying jobs like helping an older patient with digestive problems use the bathroom.
Although volunteering at the Mother Teresa Homes was often difficult, it allowed the crew to establish meaningful connections with many of the patients and connect with travelers and volunteers from all over the world who shared a similar drive to help those in need. Plus, we all walked away with lots of good stories. One of my personal favorites was one that I acquired while volunteering at Khaligat, the Home for the Destitute and Dying. Halfway through my second day, I was scanning the large room of patients laid out on beds when I turned around just in time to catch a stumbling man who was completely naked. As he growled at me Hindi, his buddies lying down nearby took notice of the situation and began shouting and pointing frantically at their distraught naked friend. It quickly turned into quite a scene and despite the dozens of volunteers at Khaligat, there was suddenly no one in sight to help resolve the situation. Eventually, I realized that he was holding a change of clothes and all he wanted was to get dressed. Although I didn’t understand a word the man said, I could agree with him on that.
Of all the things that we will take away from our time working at the Mother Teresa Homes, the most significant by far is the renewed sense of gratitude that can be applied to almost every area of our lives.
Aside from volunteering, the crew has had plenty of afternoon time to explore the delicious food joints scattered along the streets of Kolkata. Yesterday, we also had a relaxing day off where we drove three hours outside the city to enjoy a beautiful boat ride through one of India’s few tiger reserves. Tomorrow we wake up at three and begin our journey to Ladakh!