Jernberg: Missionary Work in Functional Chaos: Kolkata, India
What an unforgettable experience! My time spent in India was filled with so much joy, prayer, great people, friendly locals, exploring, and cultural experiences. Before heading to Austria for my study abroad semester with Franciscan University, I went to India for two weeks. I was very lucky and blessed to be invited on this trip. We traveled in order to volunteer and help the Missionaries of Charity (founded by Mother Teresa). I went to Kolkata with 21 other eager american men and women between the ages of 19 and 24. They all work as counsellors at a christian outdoor adventure camp in North Carolina. Through a friend from Franciscan University I managed to get invited to be part of their wonderful group. Everyone was so friendly, talented, and full of life. I immediately felt like part of their family and I was able to make fantastic life long friends.
My journey began in Boston. I flew to NYC then to Moscow then to New Dehli and finally to Kolkata! After two exhausting days of travel we immediately dove into volunteering and doing our best to experience the city and help the MCs. The sisters live in the “Mother House” and have daily mass everyday at 6:30 am. After mass all volunteers are welcome to have breakfast and chat with other volunteers. The sisters then give announcements, welcome new volunteers, and send us to where we will work for the day. During orientation (on Wednesdays) we get introduced to what each home is like and we get to choose where we would like to volunteer for the rest of our stay. Four friends and I chose to work at Nabojibon, a home for the handicap and destitute between the ages of 20 and 60.
Everyday the four of us would go on an exciting journey to Nabojibon. It was an adventure to say the least. Sometimes we would get lost or the bus schedule would get mixed up. We were constantly surrounded by such an interesting culture, gazing out a bus window couldn’t get more amusing. People in India are just so different! They live, act, dress, eat, speak, and smell differently! For the most part everyone we encountered were extremely friendly and excited to speak with us. When we arrive to Nabojibon we are welcomed by dozens of excited and joyful handicaps. Many of the men can barely speak or walk but seem to be so content with just holding our hand or sitting with us. Many of the guys in the home had their own special interest/hobby. Some younger guys who could barely walk loved to play pass, others loved to draw, and some just wanted to talk. My favorite was Pepe. Everyday I would spend at least one hour with him. He would speak gibberish but somehow we managed to communicate with each other. It is hard to put in words such a powerful experience. Merely stating facts does no justice.
Being with such poor and helpless people made me realize so much more how lucky and blessed we are. We have functioning bodies and are not starving! There is no room for complaints. It might sound hypocritical for me to say this because I have been very lucky to travel so much recently. But I truly believe that we, just by being born into America and able to read this blog post are extremely lucky compared to so many millions of people in this world. We need to constantly be grateful. Not only be grateful but in a sense take advantage of our situation. What I mean is maybe we should try to avoid spending money on unnecessary luxuries and instead either spend the money helping others or on our own travels. So many people complain or say it is impossible to travel. If you simply fast from going out to eat and drinking at bars for a few weeks you have already paid for a good chunk of any trip.
It is so worth it! Opening your eyes to other cultures and ways is essential in learning what life really is about and what our priorities should be.