After an eventful day of teaching and observing at the Carmel School, Rita, our host teacher, took us to southern Kolkata to visit an NGO, The Institute for Mothers and Children. Started over 25 years ago by Dr. Sajeet, who was encouraged and inspired by Mother Teresa, The Institute is both an orphanage and a vocational school, a medical clinic and home for the physically challenged, a daycare and a place of rest and recovery for those suffering from severe burns and tropical diseases. It has also built over 38 schools throughout Kolkata. We have learned that the Indian government has made primary education to grade 8 compulsory, but often the schools are very crowded. Dr. Sajeet’s schools help to alleviate that problem and offer a more well-rounded education for students from the poorest parts of the city.
A medical student from Italy toured us around the facility and was soon joined by several other students from many countries who had come to volunteer their time and expertise to the organization. Dr. Sajeet receives over 400 volunteer applications a month from university students all over the globe, all hoping for the chance to serve the impoverished women and children of Kolkata. The Institute does not recruit these students, but instead, students returning from their time here spread the word to their friends and now there is a steady flow of volunteers, all eager to help out.
Dr. Sajeet travels regularly, presenting at universities and medical schools worldwide on the challenges of tropical diseases. People can donate directly to The Institute or they can sponsor a child, as Rita has done for the past 7 years. It was a pleasure to meet her sponsored child and to share in the tender moments they shared on our visit.
The vocational school teaches women and children many useful skills, including how to spin yarn and weave beautiful textiles for saris and other clothing and household items. They are then given micro loans to help them start small businesses, which will keep them off the streets and afford them the resources needed for food and shelter. Classical dance is taught to connect them with their heritage and cultural traditions. Many orphans who have grown up at The Institute return to volunteer and help others.
Of all the schools and organizations we’ve visited, this place resonated with me most. The love here is palpable, the dedication and passion of everyone is enlightening. While there Dr. Sajeets’s daughter received word that she has been accepted into medical school. The excitement lit up the whole facility. Here, this talented young woman, the daughter of the founder, will now follow in his footsteps and continue his work long into the future. The daughter had been Rita’s student at Carmel High School, so the medical school announcement thrilled Rita, who recognized her part in this young woman’s life.