As a challenging alternative to the traditional Christmas break, 11 Wake Forest University students will travel to India to volunteer with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
The students will leave for Calcutta the day after Christmas to spend two weeks helping India’s poor. They will arrive back in the United States on Sunday, Jan. 12.
In Calcutta, also called the “City of Joy,” they will work at three homes for the destitute run by Mother Teresa’s religious order: the Khalighat Home for the Dying and Destitute; Prem Dan, a home for the mentally and physically handicapped; and the Shishu Bhavan orphanage. They will comfort the dying, bathe patients, clean clothes and bed linens, and care for children.
The students will arrive in time to fill in for long-term volunteers who leave Calcutta for the holidays. If Mother Teresa’s health has improved, the students will meet her during their visit. They will bring simple toys such as yo-yos and bubble solution for the children, but will also bring practical presents such as soap, lotion, powder and disposable razors for adult Calcutta residents.
Paige Wilbanks, Wake Forest’s coordinator of volunteer services, will accompany the group.
“This a good opportunity to experience service at a deeper level and to gain a better emotional and intellectual understanding of the poor,” said Wilbanks. “I hope the students will gain confidence in serving, so they will serve and encourage others to serve in their own communities,” she added.
The trip is partially funded by a $11,000 grant from a $1 million endowment fund established by the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation at Wake Forest for programs in the area of ethics and leadership. The remaining half of the cost was raised by the students through individual donations and fund-raising projects.
Selected from 60 applicants, the students were chosen based on essays explaining why they wanted to go. Since September, the volunteers have met weekly to prepare for the trip. They have watched documentaries, studied basic Hindi phrases, learned about leprosy and other skin diseases, and discussed death and dying issues.
Wake Forest University students have traveled to Calcutta during the holidays for the past two years. Wake Forest junior Jackson Williams, who accompanied the group in 1995, is the student leader of this year’s group.
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