Famous Person:

Mother Teresa

Related Topics:

Humanitarian Service

Grade Level:

4th Grade


J. Gregory Stewart




In the opinion of many people, the world's greatest and most honored humanitarian today is an eighty-seven-year-old nun known as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India. For at least seventy years, since the age of seventeen, she has totally devoted her life to charitable works.

Today mother Teresa and her associates have more than six hundred missions of charity in one hundred and twenty countries on five continents. These are staffed by several thousand nuns plus many other volunteers.

She has been chiefly responsible for establishing a number of medical centers to treat specific diseases. For example in 1964 she founded a leper colony in West Bengal. In 1985 she established a hospice for patients with AIDS in New York City. These are just two examples of many that could be mentioned.

Mother Teresa has traveled throughout the world giving humanitarian service. Her home base is in the huge city of Calcutta, India, where she has spent much of her life personally administering to the needs of the sick and the poor. Calcutta is where she established her first formal Mission of Charity. She worked for many years as the principal of a Roman Catholic high school. While she was principal of the high school she also spent many hours each week assisting people in need.

In 1948 Mother Teresa asked for and received permission from the Pope to live outside of the convent and live with and serve the poor in the streets of Calcutta. She spent three months at Patna Holy Family Hospital learning to be a nurse so she could know how to take care of the poor who were sick.

Mother Teresa believed that the child is God's best gift to the family. She saw the many neglected and abandoned children in the slums of Calcutta and was determined to help by starting a school for them in the slums. This occurred in 1949. They didn't have any furniture, blackboards or chalk, but she was still able to teach the children to read and keep clean. Mother Teresa has also established orphanages to provide homes for children who have no parents to take care of them.

In 1952 she established in Calcutta a Nirmal Hriday ("Pure Heart") Home for Dying Destitutes. Calcutta had thousands of people who had no homes and no one to take care of them, to feed them, or to tend to their health problems. They were just lying in the streets waiting to die.

She is an inspiring teacher. Wherever she goes thousands of people flock to hear her. Many people have become involved in humanitarian service because of her influence.

In 1975 Mother Teresa authored and published a book entitled Gift from God in which she emphasized the importance of love as the greatest force for good in the world. It is because of her own deep love and compassion for people that she has devoted her life to helping those in need.

Fortunately her wonderful work has not gone unrewarded, although she herself would say that the greatest reward is in seeing the relief and joy her work has brought to the suffering. Among the many recognitions she has received was the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Others include: the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize in 1971, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding in 1972, and the American Presidential Medal of Freedom presented by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.

Mother Teresa was born in 1910 in the town of Skoplje, which at that time was in Turkey, but later became part of Albania and still later a part of Yugoslavia. While still in her teens she felt a great desire to become a nun and devote her life to the service of others. She received training in both Dublin, Ireland, and Darjeeling, India. Eventually she took vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and service to the poor.

At eighty-seven years of age she is in poor health, and yet maintains a work schedule such as others would find challenging in the prime of life. She retires at 2 a.m. and arises before 5 a.m.

Many of Mother Teresa's sayings are widely quoted. These are the precepts by which she has lived her life: "Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing." "The world today is hungry not only for bread but hungry for love; hungry to be wanted, to be loved." "We can do no great things; only small things with great love" (Latha, 1997).

Truly Mother Teresa has been a woman of great love.


Egan, Eileen. Such A Vision Of The Street. Garden City, New York: Doubleday , l985.

Lee, Betsy. Mother Teresa, Caring for all God's Children. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Dillon Press, Inc., 1949.

Vardey, Lucinda, compiler. Mother Teresa, A Simple Path. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995.

Latha, Swana (1997) Internet Home Page [On-Line]. Available: http://www.cs.uiowa.edu/~latha/teresa.html

Negri G., and Kramer, A., (l995) The Boston Globe Home Page [On Line]. Available: http://www.boston.com/globe/archives/nobel/1995/1995q.html

Warren, David (1995) Pioneer Home Page. [On-line]. Available: http://sbweb2.med.incnet.com/infotrac/session/9/0/ll63l09/12?xm_11


  1. Students will be able to understand what humanitarian service is.
  2. Students will be able to describe the contributions made by Mother Teresa in her world wide humanitarian services.
  3. Students will be able to identify humanitarian service needs in their own community.
  4. Students will be able to identify the humanitarian services and organizations in their
  5. Students will identify possible humanitarian service projects for their class.
  6. Students will participate in a service learning opportunity..
  7. Students will explain why volunteer humanitarian service is important.

Time Allotment: Approximately a week and a half.

Resources Needed:
Map of the world
Guest speaker (a director of community services)


  1. Guided Discussion. Have the phrase "humanitarian service" written on the board. Ask the students what they think about when they read the words "humanitarian service." Guide the students into a discussion about humanitarian service. Write the students' ideas and thoughts on the board. Teacher summarizes ideas and concepts about humanitarian service.
  2. Mini-Lecture. Explain that one of the great humanitarians in the world of our day is a nun called Mother Teresa. She saw the many needs of the poor and the sick people of Calcutta, India, where she lived and decided to spend her life helping them. Using the background information above, tell the story of Mother Teresa. Be sure to locate Dublin ,Ireland and Calcutta, India on a map of the world.
  3. Guest Speaker. After reviewing with students that Mother Teresa has helped improve conditions for the poor and sick, have someone who is in charge of the volunteer services in your community or who is familiar with the voluntary services in your community speak to the students about the humanitarian service needs in your area and the organizations that are available to fill these needs. The instructor will list the names of the community service organizations on the board as a review. After the review the board will be erased and a quiz made up of true and false questions and/or multiple choice questions will be given that will require the students to recognize the names of the humanitarian services in their community.
  4. Essay Writing. Have students write a paper on why volunteer humanitarian service is important.
  5. Think-Pair-Share. Name and discuss with the students specific humanitarian projects organized by Mother Teresa. Have students individually think of some voluntary humanitarian service that their class could perform for their school or community. In pairs have students share with their partner different ways that their class could perform voluntary humanitarian service for their school or community. In pairs have students share with the class the humanitarian services they thought of that their class could perform for their school or community. In a large group have students make a list of voluntary humanitarian services that their class could perform for the school or community.
  6. Service Project. The teacher may want to have students participate in a service project for one of the humanitarian service organizations in the community. This could include such things as food drives and clothing drives.
  7. Learning Journal. Have students make an entry about at least three things they have learned from the study of the contributions that Mother Teresa has made in humanitarian service.


  1. Teacher will assess the guided discussion activities by tallying the number of ideas each student contributes to the class list.
  2. Quiz on the humanitarian service organizations will be assessed.
  3. Written assignment on why voluntary humanitarian service is important will be assessed.
  4. Contribution to Think-Pair-Share and group list of humanitarian services will be assessed informally through observation.
  5. The teacher will assess participation in the service project by noting in the file of each individual student the amount and quality of his or her contribution.
  6. Learning journal entries on the important things they have learned from the mini-unit will be assessed.