Kalighat is the hospice for dying destitutes that mother Teresa founded in Kolkata in 1952. These days it is run in large part by volunteers. The original aim of providing a place for lonely street-dwellers to die with dignity remains intact. True to the founding principles of Teresa, the care offered is still about personal care and company for those who have no-one in those last years, weeks or sometimes even minutes of their lives. This idea appeals to a steady stream of volunteers from many faiths and walks of life and from all over the globe. They sign up to spend months or years of their lives helping the poor.Wim Klerkx, 1998.

Kalighat is the hospice for dying destitutes that mother Teresa founded in Kolkata in 1952. These days it is run in large part by volunteers. The original aim of providing a place for lonely street-dwellers to die with dignity remains intact. True to the founding principles of Teresa, the care offered is still about personal care and company for those who have no-one in those last years, weeks or sometimes even minutes of their lives. This idea appeals to a steady stream of volunteers from many faiths and walks of life and from all over the globe. They sign up to spend months or years of their lives helping the poor.
Wim Klerkx, 1998.

Material comfort, food and medical care offered at Kalighat has always been very basic. Here, volunteers hand out lunch in stainless steel platters and cups among the beds, with just enough room to move around.

Material comfort, food and medical care offered at Kalighat has always been very basic. Here, volunteers hand out lunch in stainless steel platters and cups among the beds, with just enough room to move around.

Two volunteers wait for a bus outside the Motherhouse in Kolkata. From this building, founded in 1953, the ‘Missionaries of Charity’ are led world-wide. In a chapel on the ground floor, Mother Teresa lies buried in a white tomb.

Two volunteers wait for a bus outside the Motherhouse in Kolkata. From this building, founded in 1953, the ‘Missionaries of Charity’ are led world-wide. In a chapel on the ground floor, Mother Teresa lies buried in a white tomb.

Volunteer Martin talking to sister Nirmala Maria in the Motherhouse. She is in charge of the volunteers who are working for the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata. Every morning before work starts, volunteers are welcome to attend mass and have breakfast at the Motherhouse. This is also the opportunity to sign up, to discuss problems or to collect mail.

Volunteer Martin talking to sister Nirmala Maria in the Motherhouse. She is in charge of the volunteers who are working for the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata. Every morning before work starts, volunteers are welcome to attend mass and have breakfast at the Motherhouse. This is also the opportunity to sign up, to discuss problems or to collect mail.

Volunteers transport a dying man whom they just found at the Howrah-station of Kolkata. Every day, some experienced volunteers visit spots where ill people are often left behind.

Volunteers transport a dying man whom they just found at the Howrah-station of Kolkata. Every day, some experienced volunteers visit spots where ill people are often left behind.

Volunteers Korak and Joan try to keep a dying man upright while a taxi rushes them to Kalighat. The man is covered in newspapers to protect the seats. He was left for dead on a platform at Kolkata's Howrah station. The man regained consciousness, but died within minutes after arrival, before he could say his name.

Volunteers Korak and Joan try to keep a dying man upright while a taxi rushes them to Kalighat. The man is covered in newspapers to protect the seats. He was left for dead on a platform at Kolkata's Howrah station. The man regained consciousness, but died within minutes after arrival, before he could say his name.

Andy helps Anthony drinking during the sunday-morning mass at Kalighat. Andy is a German volunteer who works at Kalighat for more than a decade. Anthony suffers from tuberculosis in its last stages and has been in several Missionaries of Charity hospices for more than a year. Most patients and most volunteers are not practicing Christians. They are free to attend the sunday-morning mass, one of the few occasions at which the Roman Catholic basis on which the Kalighat hospice was founded is brought forward for the patients and volunteers.

Andy helps Anthony drinking during the sunday-morning mass at Kalighat. Andy is a German volunteer who works at Kalighat for more than a decade. Anthony suffers from tuberculosis in its last stages and has been in several Missionaries of Charity hospices for more than a year. Most patients and most volunteers are not practicing Christians. They are free to attend the sunday-morning mass, one of the few occasions at which the Roman Catholic basis on which the Kalighat hospice was founded is brought forward for the patients and volunteers.

On the roof of Kalighat a sister of the Missionaries of Charity order teaches children from the neighborhood. Meanwhile, volunteers put out the laundry to dry. Together with several paid laborers, volunteers do the lion's share of the daily work in the hospice. This leaves the hands free of the 6 sisters who permanently live here, to engage in other projects in the area.

On the roof of Kalighat a sister of the Missionaries of Charity order teaches children from the neighborhood. Meanwhile, volunteers put out the laundry to dry. Together with several paid laborers, volunteers do the lion's share of the daily work in the hospice. This leaves the hands free of the 6 sisters who permanently live here, to engage in other projects in the area.

Volunteers during a tea-break on the roof of Kalighat. Some volunteers stay for a day, others for years. Within fixed hours and with the exception of a mandatory free thursday, volunteers may decide by themselves which days they come to work. The work is emotionally and physically tough. Volunteers are exposed to serious tropical diseases and the climate is very hot and humid. This puts off some volunteers very quickly. Many need weeks or months to acclimatize before they can work full days.

Volunteers during a tea-break on the roof of Kalighat. Some volunteers stay for a day, others for years. Within fixed hours and with the exception of a mandatory free thursday, volunteers may decide by themselves which days they come to work. The work is emotionally and physically tough. Volunteers are exposed to serious tropical diseases and the climate is very hot and humid. This puts off some volunteers very quickly. Many need weeks or months to acclimatize before they can work full days.

A game of chess in the common room of a hostel run by the Salvation Army in the backpacker district of Kolkata. Here, many volunteers from western countries find a cheap place to stay. Evenings and off-days are often spent together in a city that has not a lot to offer in terms of recreation.

A game of chess in the common room of a hostel run by the Salvation Army in the backpacker district of Kolkata. Here, many volunteers from western countries find a cheap place to stay. Evenings and off-days are often spent together in a city that has not a lot to offer in terms of recreation.

Dominique and Emmanuelle in their shared room at the Salvation Army hostel in Kolkata. Volunteers are expected to take care of their own board and lodging. Kolkata has very simple and cheap places to stay. Some volunteers manage to come by with a budget of a few Euro's a day.

Dominique and Emmanuelle in their shared room at the Salvation Army hostel in Kolkata. Volunteers are expected to take care of their own board and lodging. Kolkata has very simple and cheap places to stay. Some volunteers manage to come by with a budget of a few Euro's a day.

Western volunteers have a party in one of the few restaurants in Kolkata with beer and beef on the menu.

Western volunteers have a party in one of the few restaurants in Kolkata with beer and beef on the menu.

Volunteer Marie with a polaroid-photo made with her friends, just before she takes an airplane home.  Western volunteers generally arrive on an individual basis and on their own initiative without knowing well what to expect. In Kolkata, they are practically depending on one another. Within months many volunteers have made lifelong friends.

Volunteer Marie with a polaroid-photo made with her friends, just before she takes an airplane home. Western volunteers generally arrive on an individual basis and on their own initiative without knowing well what to expect. In Kolkata, they are practically depending on one another. Within months many volunteers have made lifelong friends.

Volunteers Kelly and Jesse take a break on the roof of Kalighat while a patient rests from his exercise in the stairwell. More often than not, there are enough volunteers to do all the work. The atmosphere at the hospice for the dying can be surprisingly relaxed and light-hearted then.

Volunteers Kelly and Jesse take a break on the roof of Kalighat while a patient rests from his exercise in the stairwell. More often than not, there are enough volunteers to do all the work. The atmosphere at the hospice for the dying can be surprisingly relaxed and light-hearted then.

Nathan helps patient Bikari to stretch his legs. The hospice for the dying not only takes terminally ill people. A good part of the beds is occupied by elderly people who otherwise would have to go back to a lonely life on the streets.

Nathan helps patient Bikari to stretch his legs. The hospice for the dying not only takes terminally ill people. A good part of the beds is occupied by elderly people who otherwise would have to go back to a lonely life on the streets.

Patient Chapon tries to sleep, while a volunteer lays out the body of a Hindu patient who died earlier that day.

Patient Chapon tries to sleep, while a volunteer lays out the body of a Hindu patient who died earlier that day.

Volunteers take the bodies of two expired patient to a crematory near a side-river of the Hooghly, as the part of the Ganga that flows through Kolkata is called. The indian government bears the costs for cremating Hindu-patients and for burying the Muslims and the few Christians who die at Kalighat.

Volunteers take the bodies of two expired patient to a crematory near a side-river of the Hooghly, as the part of the Ganga that flows through Kolkata is called. The indian government bears the costs for cremating Hindu-patients and for burying the Muslims and the few Christians who die at Kalighat.

Volunteer Tamotsu massages the back of a patient in the male warden of Kalighat.

Volunteer Tamotsu massages the back of a patient in the male warden of Kalighat.