Letter: I was a volunteer with Mother Teresa's sisters

Anita with ever-smiling Santosh

Anita with ever-smiling Santosh

Five years ago back in 2011, I spent four weeks volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata. I worked at an orphanage for children with cerebral palsy and cystic fibrosis. The orphanage was called Daya Dan and looking after the children was a wonderful experience. In the end it was us (my friends and I) who gained so much from it. I have memories clear as crystal which I will never forget - children like Gabriel, Rosa, Pingku, Angel, Arudhana, Santosh who are very dear to me.

Even though I only spent a month with them, they gave me precious experiences and memories.

The nuns were amazing too - so cheerful and devout.

I met a nun who was doctor to Mother Teresa when the Saint was on her death bed. She described to me Mother Teresa's final moments (there was a power cut so Mother Teresa had no fan and it was over 40 degrees.) In her last breath Mother Teresa uttered "Jesus Jesus Jesus."

The doctor nun (unfortunately I can't recall her name) asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I said I wanted to be a writer (I was an unemployed PA at the time and writing for ICN had given me a flavour of what I wanted to do). She said: "If you are an apple, be an apple. If you are a mango, be a mango. If you are a writer, then write."

Less than six months later I was training to be a journalist on a fast track course with the NCTJ and ten months later I was at the Diocese of Westminster Communications Office writing for the Church.

What a wonderful experience and memories Kolkata gave me.

In my free time I now volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity soup kitchen in London. Here the Sisters and volunteers care for the homeless community. It's an incredibly humbling experience to help these men and women who have such hard lives where daily survival is a gift in itself. I find it very enriching to pray with the nuns before meals are served, listening to their prayers, hymns and reflections together with the crowd of homeless people who have come to dine at the Missionaries of Charity home near Waterloo.

Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity believe in simplicity and do not rely on advanced technology to do their work serving the poor. Sometimes their simple methods of care receive criticism, but really it means that everyone can be involved in the caring. You don't need a how-to manual to share love. Their way of caring is incredibly inclusive and accessible, and it means that the volunteers who come are often as diverse in age, race, and culture as the men, women and children who they care for.

Everyone is welcomed to share their love and concern in a Missionaries of Charity home. That is why I return again and again.

Tags: Anita Boniface, Kolkata, Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa

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