The squalid truth behind the legacy of Mother Teresa
The nun adored by the Vatican ran a network of care homes where cruelty and neglect are routine. Donal MacIntyre gained secret access and witnessed at first hand the suffering of "rescued" orphans
The dormitory held about 30 beds rammed in so close that there was hardly a breath of air between the bare metal frames. Apart from shrines and salutations to "Our Great Mother", the white walls were bare. The torch swept across the faces of children sleeping, screaming, laughing and sobbing, finally resting on the hunched figure of a boy in a white vest. Distressed, he rocked back and forth, his ankle tethered to his cot like a goat in a farmyard. This was the Daya Dan orphanage for children aged six months to 12 years, one of Mother Teresa's flagship homes in Kolkata. It was 7.30 in the evening, and outside the monsoon rains fell unremittingly.
Earlier in the day, young international volunteers had giggled as one told how a young boy had peed on her while strapped to a bed. I had already been told of an older disturbed woman tied to a tree at another Missionaries of Charity home. At the orphanage, few of the volunteers batted an eyelid at disabled children being tied up. They were too intoxicated with the myth of Mother Teresa and drunk on their own philanthropy to see that such treatment of children was inhumane and degrading.
Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 in Kolkata, answering her own calling to "serve the poorest of the poor". In 1969, a documentary about her work with the poor catapulted her to global celebrity. International awards fol-lowed, including the Nobel Peace Prize and a Congressional Gold Medal. But when, in her Nobel acceptance speech, she described abortion as "the greatest destroyer of peace today" she started to provoke controversy. She died on 5 September 1997, her name attached to some 60 centres worldwide, and India honoured her with a state funeral. Her seven homes for the poor and destitute of Kolkata, however, are her lasting monument.
I worked undercover for a week in Mother Teresa's flagship home for disabled boys and girls to record Mother Teresa's Legacy, a special report for Five News broadcast earlier this month. I winced at the rough handling by some of the full-time staff and Missionary sisters. I saw children with their mouths gagged open to be given medicine, their hands flaying in distress, visible testimony to the pain they were in. Tiny babies were bound with cloths at feeding time. Rough hands wrenched heads into position for feeding. Some of the children retched and coughed as rushed staff crammed food into their mouths. Boys and girls were abandoned on open toilets for up to 20 minutes at a time. Slumped, untended, some dribbling, some sleeping, they were a pathetic sight. Their treatment was an affront to their dignity, and dangerously unhygienic.
Volunteers (from Italy, Sweden, the United States and the UK) did their best to cradle and wash the children who had soiled themselves. But there were no nappies, and only cold water. Soap and disinfectant were in short supply. Workers washed down beds with dirty water and dirty cloths. Food was prepared on the floor in the corridor. A senior member of staff mixed medicine with her hands. Some did their best to give love and affection - at least some of the time. But, for the most part, the care the children received was inept, unprofessional and, in some cases, rough and dangerous. "They seem to be warehousing people rather than caring for them," commented the former operations director of Mencap Martin Gallagher, after viewing our undercover footage.
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