Volunteering at Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Are you considering volunteering at Mother Teresa in India?

I travelled to Kolkata in February 2017 with a friend and volunteered at Missionaries of Charity for just over a week. Volunteering was, for me, hard work but extremely rewarding and at times emotional.  The process of arranging to volunteer is fairly simple – there is no need to contact the Missionaries of Charity before you travel to India  – you literally just turn up in Kolkata and register. Language should not be a problem as many people in India speak English – most of the sisters at Mother Teresa speak English but some of the Indian helpers – mashis –  do not.  You do not have to be catholic to volunteer.

Pack for Mother teresa kolkata Calcutta
Missionaries of Charity Mother Teresa AJC Bose Road Kolkata

Registering for Mother Teresa

Registration for is 3.pm sharp at Mother Teresa / Shishu Bhavan 78 A.J.C. Bose Road, Kolkata, 700016 –  ground floor, on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays – just turn up with your passport and I recommend a notebook and a bottle of water .  It’s quite noisy as next to a main road. There is a group meeting where general advice is given including information about the different homes you can work in – after which is a one to one meeting with a sister to decide where you will volunteer. There are 6 different homes – for men / women / children / children with special needs/ & 2 for the dying & destitute. It is preferred that you remain where you first chose to work although some long term volunteers told me they had moved around. Two are at 78 AJC Bose Road – the rest are a very cheap bus ride away (bring change). I chose to work with children with special needs at Shishu Bhavan children’s home which was located at 78 AJC Bose Road. The Mother House at 54A AJC Bose Road is a five minute walk away.

What hours do you work ?

You will also decide whether to work AM shift 7.30-12 or PM shift 2-5.30 – you can do both but it is advised to just work one shift at first as it is very tiring, then review after a few days. Most days I worked only AM and it was indeed tiring. Even though it was technically winter when I was there it was still very hot – there were fans but no air-conditioning. There is a 15 minute break for black sweet spiced chai and biscuits – where you quickly bond with the other lovely volunteers from around the world. You can work for just a day or for as long as you like.

Do you have to pay to volunteer at Mother Teresa ? 

You do not have to pay to volunteer here but you do have to arrange and pay for your own accommodation, living expenses and of course flights. Most volunteers tended to stay around the Sudder street / Park Road areas where there are many cheap hotels and hostels aimed at tourists as well as places to eat. Bring Imodium ! A good place to look is  Tripadvisor.

Also remember you will need a visa before travelling to India – for more info read my blog on visa’s. I strongly advise you visit your doctors for malaria advice and immunisations for India.

All volunteers meet daily at 54A AJC Bose Road – also known as The Mother House – either at 6 am if you want to attend mass first ( I didn’t – though on the first day we did hear the sisters singing from outside and it was adorable  ) or later at 7 am where you will meet up with the rest of the volunteers for chai, bananas and bread ( from the nearby Russian Bakery). This is for the morning shift – sorry I am not sure what time the afternoon shift meet here – I’m guessing about 1 pm. I did work one very long day it was a picnic in a park outside Kolkata – a bus trip.  Note the pm shift finishes at 5.30 and it is dark by then – you need to take this into consideration if you are a lone female needing to travel back to your accomodation. The picnic trip returned to AJC Bose Road about 7 in the  evening and it was a little scary flagging down a taxi on my own at that time. There is no volunteering on Thursdays.

What should I pack for kolkata & Mother Teresa 

You are asked to follow a dress code at Mother Teresas. Basically dress repectfully. Women – skirts/dresses which must be must be down to the knee – or trousers – nothing low cut – shirts must have sleeves but they can be short. I would recommend nothing too tight and also even if wearing  dresses to the knee I would advise you wear leggings underneath as you will be sitting on the floor, bending and lifting a lot. I purchased some long kurta tops from New Market in Kolkata , brought my own leggings and also bought some there. Kurta tops were between 250-600 rupees and leggings 300 rupees.


Pack for Mother teresa kolkata Calcutta
Kurta & leggings purchased from stall outside New Market

I think similar with men though I didn’t pay particular attention to this , being female ( we were all called ‘aunty’ by the sisters and mashis which was amusing)  and as there were no male staff or volunteers in our home I can’t look back and recall. But i vaguely remember the information given on the first day was T-shirt with sleeves or shirts – short sleeved were acceptable and long trousers or shorts to the knee .  My clothes were very stained by the end of each shift with yellow food marks and general stains from feeding and carrying children. The nappies are not like here in the UK they are just cloth strips tied on – nothing waterproof – so I was usually a little damp as well – but you get used to it. You do have to wear an apron – this does give a little protection but not much really – it isn’t waterproof. I have read that if you work both  AM and PM shifts that you need to change into fresh clothing for the PM shift.  You leave your shoes outside the room so slip on shoes are easier.  Most adults were barefoot inside the rooms but wearing socks is permitted. I would advise taking something to tie your hair up if long and not to wear dangly earrings or jewellery that can be pulled off. I also had two pairs of glasses accidently broken when pulled off by children – luckily I had packed spare cheap ones. For great general advice on what to pack when travelling to India, for applying for visa’s and general advice including money and immunisations/health refer to my other blogs.

Where to stay near The Mother House – Mother Teresa Kolkata

There are many great places to stay in Kolkata but if you want to be sure of staying with other volunteers then find somewhere in Sudder Street which is a 15-20 minute walk from The Mother House. My bible for the best up to date info on travelling to India is Lonely Planet’s INDIA where you will find a chapter on Kolkata and a section within that specifically on accommodation in the Sudder street area

Not only that but it is the absolutely best guide book to travelling to India and  is my first go to when I’m researching my next trip. Neatly divided into areas – Mumbai – Goa – Kolkata ..etc – I photocopy the relevant pages and take them with me as the book is absolutely huge and weighs a ton ! So you know you are getting value for money.

Bring hand sanitiser

This is fairly essential. Many of the children and adults being cared for have compromised immune systems. If you are ill you are requested to stay away. It is advised to wash your hands frequently and to use a hand sanitizer. You may want to do this to protect yourself as well. The restroom facilities are a little more basic than at home. I purchased  good quality Purell hand sanitizers from Amazon – pack of 6 for £6.95  before i traveled – they are used in the NHS – they come with a neck lanyard – great as always to hand. The sanitizer slips conveniently behind the apron out of the way. I got through a couple of  bottles in just over a week . The Purell is stronger than the sanitizers you buy in the supermarket.

Pack for Mother teresa kolkata Calcutta
Purell hand sanitizer & lanyard

There was no air-conditioning in the room I worked at – there were lots of open windows and fans but it was hot and dusty ( and noisy being on the high road) – so it was imperative to take and drink lots of water. There was a communal locker type cupboard inside the room where volunteers can leave valuables which was quite safe but i would recommend you bring a fairly large bag that you can fit everything in including your water as it is easy to get them mixed up with everyone else’s.   You are asked to keep your mobile phones inside the locker and also not to take photographs – you can obtain permission to take some on your last day – but they are strictly as a personal momento and not for publishing on social media or anywhere else on the internet. Hence no photo’s of inside the home here on this blogpost. The home – which was basically one room – was about 60% cots and then some space with chairs tables and padded mats. It was sadly quite bare – I wish someone could paint some nice bright stimulating childrens pictures on the walls and ceilings – there’s an idea for someone !

Depending on where you are working you could be helping with feeding, helping with drinking, potty runs, nappy changing, laundry, physical therapy, dishwashing, helping men shave, cutting nails, helping in kitchen, brushing teeth, dressing, changing beds, cleaning, playing with children, talking with adults or just giving care and love and being there. We are reminded that only 10% of communication is verbal. On saturdays the whole of the room I worked in is scrubbed down – toys / windows / chairs etc with disinfectant – the volunteers were pretty much left to do this and was actually quite fun.

You are advised that some residents may touch your heart -(  and they do ! ) – but you are asked not to give gifts to individuals as it can cause jealousy as most have nothing- but you can give gifts to the sister in charge instead who will be in charge of them.

There are a lot of beggars around AJC Bose street – outside the Mother Teresa centres and in Kolkata generally – and the advice given by everyone is not to give money as most are professional beggars and probably do not get to keep the money. I found it extremely difficult as a mother to ignore women with babies in their arms desperately begging for food for their babies.  I did buy and give food to mothers who were not professional beggars – it doesn’t really take to long to tell the difference though I learnt the hard way by making the mistake of paying, in hindsight, far too much for a bag of rice for a woman with a baby begging . She told me to give the money to a man stood near the shop ( more of a stall ) on the road – I didn’t have change and apparently  he didn’t have change but he took my 500 rupee note (approx £5) and she told me to ‘follow him, follow him’ as he was going to get some change for me  – he walked off beckoning me to follow and I started following but he was way too fast for me and he very quickly disappeared into thin air ! I didn’t bother going back to see if the woman was still there.  It still kind of annoys me as there were many other women on the street with children I would have preferred to have given to but you live and learn.

I had researched quite a lot before travelling to Kolkata to volunteer – often coming across articles criticizing the facilities and care at the Mother Teresa homes.   I think the criticism is more directed at the destitute and the dying homes –  all I can say is that where I volunteered , despite being a little sparse, the children seemed happy , loved and taken care of and the sisters and mashis were all friendly and kind.   Mother Teresa herself is in a tomb at The Mother House at 54 A.J.C. Bose Road and you can go in and visit if you so wish. Yes I did touch it ! Kolkata itself has wealthy spots but there is an enormous amount of poverty – a shocking amount of homelessness including whole families living on pavements, under flyovers and in unfinished buildings. Many buildings are very run down. Surprisingly after a period of time it almost becomes normal. Despite this you can’t help falling in love with Kolkata and I would return in a heartbeat. I am a little biased though because I am in love with India.

Pack for Mother teresa kolkata Calcutta
Mother Teresa
Pack for Mother teresa kolkata Calcutta
Mother Teresa volunteers registration days & time
AJC Bose Road Kolkata India
Russian bakery
Builders on AJC Bose Road
Pack for Mother teresa kolkata Calcutta
Motherhouse sign




43 thoughts on “Volunteering at Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, West Bengal, India


          1. First, i’m happy for the contact with me, I’m glad sword remember that I want so much to go to Kolkata for volunteer work but unfortunately in the moment. I hope I hope that you must continue to maintain contact with me for I remember how much it’s good to help people. I don’t lost my hope that someday I can go to Kolkata. Thank you and God bless you.
            Att, Raquel Érica.

  2. Thank you so much for clarifying so many details. There’s one thing I would like to know, and that is, is it safe for a woman to go there volunteering all alone? Is there anything I have to be careful about?

    1. Rhoda, YES its 100% safe for a woman to go Calcutta and volunteer at Sisters of Charity. once you go there you will find the Hotels and Lodges near the mother house are very safe and secure and lodging places will give you all information that you need. I suggest you to take up the morning volunteer shift to begin with however the evening shift is equally good too. Unless you go to the interior part of downtown at night you will be just fine. the places near Mother house are extremely safe…. I wish the very best!

  3. Very handy Information for volunteers, appreciate your time to make this wonderful blog. I am an Indian settled in California, been to Calcutta many times (even when Mother Theresa was alive) I never had the opportunity to volunteer for Sisters of Charity but you know what I am doing it this June. Thanks again

    1. Thank you JD and I hope you enjoy volunteering. Would be lovely to hear about when you’re back.

      1. Hi There,
        My apologies for the late reply. I thought I responded with my volunteering experience at Sisters of Charity. It happened in last June (2018) one year back. I went to Shishu Bhavan, which is at AJC Bose Road for the registration at 3 pm on a Monday and I volunteered for one week.
        I attended the morning mass at 6 am and then a small tea break at 7 am at the Motherhouse. we then disperse to different homes after that. I volunteered at Kaligaht along with with my wife, that the home for the dying. It was an eye-opening experience and we spend a lot of time with the residents and helped them in their daily activities. It was very hot, humid & scorching sun however we were determined with our mission and spend one-week taking care of the less privileged. There were a lot of foreigners in my group, Many from US, France, Italy, Korea, Japan, etc, etc.
        I highly encourage everyone who reads this to volunteer for Sisters of Charity. If you have any questions please let me know.

        1. Thanks so much for posting your experience on volunteering at Mother Teresa at Kolkata – glad you found it rewarding 🙂

    2. I forgot to mention that next week I am flying again to India and planning to volunteer for another week while I am there. If anyone needs any special information from there please let me know. Thanks

      1. That’s lovely news – perhaps you could check the age limit 🙂

        Hope you have another rewarding trip and give my love to Kolkata I miss her 🙂

          1. Hello all, I had a great 2 weeks @ Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Last year I was at Elderly center Kalighat. This time I and my wife decided to be with kids of special needs. We initially planned for a week however decided to stay for 2 weeks at “Daya Dhan” It was an incredible experience. There were volunteers from all around the world and everyone was taking care of kids like their own baby. I felt so blessed to be part of their life for 2 weeks, We will come back next year too.

        1. While I was Volunteering at Daya Dhan, there was a family from California with 2 kids. So the rule for kids below 16 years, can ONLY volunteer with someone from their family or any adult who they can accompany while volunteering. They will not provide any adult supervision however the kids need to come with someone from their family. hope this helps

  4. Thank you for all this information. Having read your blog has encouraged me to pursue this. When you worked with the children did you have a choice of what was needed to be done or were you just given a certain task?

    1. Thanks for your comment. You are given tasks which are more or less the same every day. It’s a fairly small area and you are supervised all of the time. Hope that helps.

  5. Hello, one of my friend mother from France, visiting Mother Theresa missionary for charity work, she got e-visa for Tourist, the visa says you can’t do Volunteer work, can you please guide which visa she required please?
    Thank you

    1. I travelled on a tourist visa but was only there for a few weeks I don’t know if that makes a difference. When I landed at Kolkata and went through immigration I was asked re purpose of my visit and I told them I was volunteering at Mother Teresa and it was fine. If you’re friend is planning to stay a long time i.e. over six months then perhaps it’s different

      There are links on my website to Indian Visa office in London – you will find a phone numbers on their page – from the UK it’s 0203 411 6786

      1. As of recent,,August 2019,,,I had to apply for a work Visa E4,,,,,to volunteer…
        I’ll be in Delhi, nov 5,,,,to volunteer with habiat for humanity,,,,and am considering volunteering
        With Kolkata, missionary

  6. Great information, appreciated very much. And we’ll written too. I’m wondering if you’d know anything about age limits? I want to take my 15 year old son with me to volunteer. Would the Missionaries of Charity be ok with this? Thanks in advance.

    1. Thanks for reading & commenting.

      I don’t remember seeing any younger volunteers and I’ve tried searching online for the answer to no avail. Will update post if I find out.

    2. Hi, I do not think 15 years will be a problem because while I was there, there were girls from the local school who were there to volunteer. They were in the 17 year age group. If you need more info I will update next month.

  7. I saw the 1997 movie : “Mother Teresa’s First Love”, about the House for the Dying. Does anyone know what became of a volunteer, “Andy”, in the movie. Andy and all the volunteers give the mercy of God.God Bless You All

  8. Thanks for all the info. Do you need to book accommodations in advance or can you book when you arrive?

    1. My advice would be to book somewhere in advance for a couple of nights at least to stay and get your bearings. You’ll either like it or chat to other volunteers who might recommend somewhere better. If you have a copy of the Lonely Planet India book ( about halfway down on this blog page ) there is a whole section on Kolkata and within that a section on Sudder street with places to stay including contact details.

  9. Are you able to volunteer every day of the week? Are there any days that they do not organize volunteers to come in?
    Thank you!

    1. Registration is only on Mondays , Wednesdays and Fridays. Once registered you can work 6 days a week – Thursdays volunteers do not work.

    2. Thursdays are the day of rest no volunteering and some times they arrange a bus to visit another place run the priests at a distant place. For new volunteer registration, its MONDAY, WEDNESDAY & FRIDAY 3 pm Shishu Bhavan AJC Road

  10. I’m all set to travel to Delhi, India,,,,this November…joining up with Habiat for Humanity, then to Volunteering
    Solutions,,,to Volunteer with the local street children,,,,I want to visit Saint Mother Teresa’s….
    I may even want to stay long term…..
    Just come, you will see: I have my passport,,,,I will come….

  11. After the childrens in Nirmala shishu bhavan grow up, where do they send them ?? I have heard that its Daya dan ?? If yes ,then do they stay here for the entire lifetime, if no, then where are they send ? Please any one for god’s shake reply me @ Biswajeetsahoo32@gmail.com …Thank you and god bless who replies me…

    1. Sadly I’m not able to answer that question specifically. I’m aware of some older children eventually moving on to adult homes but for how long I don’t know. If anyone else knows I would be interested to hear.

  12. @ Biswajeet, though you asked a good question, our job is to volunteer for the community and give them our best. Where the kids are sent once they are adults is based on their overall health status. I would leave that decision to the organization (Sisters of Charity) because they will have their evaluation before they decide where to send them.

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