Australian cricket legend Steve Waugh has launched a unit of his charity foundation in India, saying his inspiration to do social work came from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
The Steve Waugh Foundation will collaborate with Udayan, a home for children of leprosy-affected people in Kolkata, the eastern Indian city where Blessed Teresa based her life and work.
Waugh launched his foundation's Indian unit in New Delhi on 19 June along with George Tomeski, co-founder of iPlayup.com, an entertainment business that targets young mobile phone users.
The 44-year-old former captain of the Australia cricket team said his interest in working for poor people began when he met Blessed Teresa "many years ago," while touring India.
He set up the Steve Waugh Foundation-Australia after retiring from professional cricket in 2004. It aims to help "children who have a disease, an illness or an affliction that doesn't meet the set criteria of other charitable organizations," the foundation's website says.
"India gave me this life-changing movement when I met Mother Teresa in Kolkata," he told media during the New Delhi launch. "I always believed that I could use cricket and my influence to make a difference to those children who face different kind of challenges."
Meeting the nun known around the world as Mother Teresa was a catalyst, he recalled. He became associated with Udayan, whose director, British Reverend James Stevens, he describes as having done "an incredible job."
Blessed Teresa was known as the "saint of the gutters" for her work among the poorest of the poor in India and, through the Missionaries of Charity congregation, around the world. The nun, born in Macedonia, arrived in Kolkata at the age of 19 and began her own congregation in 1950. She lived and worked in Kolkata until her death in 1997 at the age of 87.
Waugh recently told 'The Hindu,' a mass circulation Indian daily respected for its secular outlook, that when he met her, she convinced him of the need for charity.
"I realized what I had to do ... to bring about a difference in the lives of those who don't have enough to survive," he said in the interview. "Charity is very important for me. It's a significant part of my life. Those in privileged positions have an obligation towards the less fortunate."
Noting that many voluntary organizations work for the same social cause, he acknowledged that "being a celebrity surely helps."