Invited to volunteer with the saint 27 years ago, she never left India. “It is not poverty only [or] hunger for bread. There is hunger of love. You find that in well-to-do countries more.” For her, “it is easier to remove material poverty than to remove heart poverty."
Calcutta (AsiaNews) – Ritsuko Shibuya, 58, left everything behind in her native Japan for the alleys of Kolkata (Calcutta) to follow the teachings of Mother Teresa.
For the past 27 years, she has been a volunteer at the Daya Dan, a health facility founded by the saint to help abandoned children with serious physical and mental disabilities.
Ritsuko was born in Mie, a prefecture in central Japan. At 16 she moved to Vienna (Austria), where she studied piano for 12 years.
After completing her musical studies, she decided to travel for a couple of years, before returning to Japan. Kolkata was just one stop but, by chance, she was invited to volunteer with Mother Teresa.
"It was the first time I saw a dead person's face," she told NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). "My impression on the first day was so shocking that I couldn't leave and just say 'Thank you for this experience.' I felt like I had to stay a little longer."
The children that Ritsuko helps are unable to see, speak or walk. They were abandoned by their parents, too poor to take care of them. Ritsuko helps them use the bathroom and takes care of physical therapy.
"The children are so alive even though they cannot talk or walk. And they always smile at me. They give me love that is precious to me. That's what keeps me here."
"It's harder than anything to see a child I've taken care of for a long time die," she notes. "When I see the children in their final days, it's hard for me to think about losing them. Every child needs to feel the warmth of love until their final moments."
"It's Mother Teresa's words that give me strength," she says. "If I eat well, wear nice clothes, and live in a good place, I can't serve the poor. I have to live like them to be able to help them."
Mother Teresa had this to say when she visited Japan in 1981.
"I think many people in Japan don't know the poor of the country. There are poverties - spiritual poverties also. It is not poverty only [or] hunger for bread. There is hunger of love. You find that in well-to-do countries more. And it is easier to remove material poverty than to remove heart poverty."