Working at Kalighat was a life-changing experience
by Marissa Turner Volunteer Charity Works
One of the sisters told me that volunteers usually cry twice – on the first day of work and on the last. For me, that statement was true. The first tears were tears of shock and disbelief, fear, sorrow, and helplessness. The final ones were those of thanksgiving, beauty, friendship, parting, and love. Working at Kalighat was a life-changing experience, and I feel blessed to have spent three months working there.
I worked the morning shift at Kalighat, which meant that a lot of the household chores needed to be done. Laundry, dishes, baths, meals, and medicines – all of these things are done every day. In each of these things there is a sense of peace and simplicity and grace; somehow no matter how much or how little work there is, it all gets done. The other volunteers and the sisters radiate joy and love in all that they do, and I always pray that I can do the same. Perhaps the most special moments of the day come about when interacting with the patients. Whether it’s a smile, a massage, or just sitting in each other’s presence, a special bond is formed – one that transcends language and culture. Another honor, probably the greatest in my mind, is sitting with women as they pass from this life. Trying to give any comfort possible and being there so that they don’t die alone: I cannot think of a greater honor than that!
Although blessings abound at Kalighat, there are also many challenges. Witnessing the pain and the loneliness that so many of the women experience day after day is not easy. My heart broke every time a patient would start crying or when she screamed and her body writhed with pain. Those things do not get easier to handle each time they occur, but maybe we just recognize that those experiences, too, are a part of this life. Another challenge is not being able to do all of the things that you want to be able to do to stop the suffering. If only I had other medicine or more technology or more knowledge of this disease or if I knew the language or how to stop the injustices that are done to these women, but we all have one undying connection: we are human. So we do our best to minister to the human person inside each one of us!
Kalighat, especially the women there, has forever changed my life! I have learned that life is extremely fragile and should not be taken for granted; I have been humbled time and time again; I have seen great acts of love even in the midst of extreme pain and suffering; I have found out that poverty is a complex problem; and I have lived life in the moment. I know that I gained more from Calcutta and Kalighat than I was ever able to give. The two will always hold a special place in my heart.
“I Thirst” defines my experience serving the poorest of the poor
by Sam Ballou Volunteer
“I Thirst” These two words said by our Lord Jesus as he hung upon the cross defines my experience serving the poorest of the poor along side with the Missionaries of Charity. It is this infinite thirst that we seek to quench in every small act of love we give to the poor. I am grateful to God for this time that I have been blessed with, here in Kolkata. In every difficult moment, God’s grace is always there to help get through the trial, no matter what situation we may find ourselves in. God’s Love and Mercy is very much alive and at work here. In each of the Sisters, Brothers and Fathers smile, the love of Jesus is radiated throughout the world.