« Home | My Dinner » | 5 Strange(?) Facts About Myself » | Ah Beng Yearns For His Fist Million » | A Fair Exchange » | Life's A Beach » | Visa Accepted » | First Street Fish Soup » | A Walk In The Village » | Birth Of The Blog » 

Tuesday, January 24, 2006 

Calcutta Rescue - A Photo Journey

Having been given a couple of days off work last week, I decided to pack myself off to Kolkata (Calcutta), India. I had decided it was to be a pure photo trip documenting the works of a NGO (Non-Government Organization) dealing with social issues. The choice of destination was limited by which NGO I could tie up with in the short period of time and after a flurry of email exchange, Calcutta Rescue agreed to allow me to shoot a photo documentary of their clinical and educational operations.

Should you feel compelled to contribute financially after viewing the images, more information can be found here.


Calcutta Rescue was founded in 1979 by Dr. Jack Preger, a Briton hailing from Manchester. Operating a pavement clinic in Middleton Row, he provided the poor and destitute with free healthcare. From that humble beginning, Jack has built up Calcutta Rescue to what it is today, a workforce of 200 fulltime health workers assisted by volunteers, working in a variety of medical and educational establishments in both urban and rural Calcutta. I hope my pictures are able to convey the importance of the work that Calcutta Rescue is undertaking in this city ravaged by poverty, disease and an uncaring attitude.


Sealdah Clinic, Sealdah

Located within the compound of the Loreto Day School, this daily clinic provides treatment for a range of ailments including diabetes, heart diseases, cancer and neurological conditions.

Many of the patients at Calcutta Rescue are illiterate. Pictorial representation on medicine packets provides simple instructions as to how the medicine should be consumed.

The clinic is staffed by both full time and volunteer health care workers. Andrea is a German volunteer providing physiotherapy services for the patients. Many first time volunteers have a hard time adjusting to the living and working conditions but all whom I spoke to found the work extremely challenging and rewarding.

A sufferer of Parkinson's disease undergoing a simple physiotherapy exercise. Because of the distance that patients need to travel for their clinical visits, sometimes more than 200km, and the infrequency of such visits, many unorthodox methods needed to be adopted to cater for their needs. As in the case of this patient, exercises which include catching and kicking a ball can be performed at the clinic and at his home. His year long therapy has been one of the success stories at Calcutta Rescue.

Patients at the clinic come from a wide ranging area, from within the city confines to the rural countryside. Some travel as far as 200km and can thus afford to visit the clinic on a monthly basis. This has been a particular problem for patients with chronic illnesses.

In addition to their regular clinical treatment, Calcutta Rescue also provides free hospitalisation should a patient require it.


School No. 10, Sonagachi

School No. 10 was the first informal school established by Calcutta Rescue in 1989. It provides free prepatory education for about 200 children in the Sonagachi district. Space is extremely tight in the small 4 storey building it occupies and there are plans to expand it once sufficient funding is secured.

A break between classes.

In line with its holistic approach, Calcutta Rescue runs its schools with an all round program which includes meals, hygiene/health education and regular medical screenings, all this in addition to classes in science, mathematics, arts and general knowledge.

This pavement dweller occupies a tiny space just across from School 10 in the Sonagachi district of Calcutta. His partner, who used to occupy the space just behind him, passed away recently. Sonagachi is the largest red light district in West Bengal, home to almost 10,000 prostitutes. Of this number, almost 10% are HIV positive.

Giving thanks for a piece of clothing that was given to him.


Talapark Clinic, Tarashankar Sarani

Talapark clinic provides mainly paediatric, antenatal and postnatal care to its patients. As with all its other operations, immaculate record keeping is required to ensure proper care is accorded to all its patients.

A man lost in pain. His story is very common amongst the poor of Calcutta. Having broken his leg in a fall, he was given improper outpatient treatment in a government hospital which resulted in his leg becoming gangrene, the rotting flesh permeating the corner of the dressing room he was in. He now risks losing his right leg, doctors at Talapark clinic sent him to another hospital shortly. This time his treatment will be paid for and supervised by Calcutta Rescue.

Calcutta Rescue adopts a policy of holistic healthcare and conducts educational classes for its adult patients too. Here a group is being taught proper sanitation methods and also instructed on proper techniques to administer the medication they've been given.

The need to provide childcare services in this area resulted in the establishment of Talapark school, situated within the premises of the clinic.

The school caters to the needs of about 40 children, allowing their parents access to employment as they now have someone to take care of their children.

Playing in a field.


Belgachia and Chitpur Clinics

Belgachia clinic is the primary treatment center for tuberculosis cases.

Dr. Preger (or Dr. Jack as he is more commonly known) screens patients at Belgachia.

The morning stream of patients arrive at Chitpur clinic. The clinic is located by the bank of the Hooghly river, in a squatter community. As such, its status is illegal but has been operating successfully for the last 12 years.

Chitpur serves as the primary care center for leprosy patients.

Leprosy patient undergoing physiotherapy.

Specially made sandals with soles made of micro cellular rubber are provided for the patients. Sufferers of leprosy often experience sensory loss in their limbs and soles, exposing the patient to foot ulceration. The special shoes provide added protection.

Dr. Preger ponders on the treatment for this boy who had fallen and injured his spine, resulting in semi-paralysis.


Slum Project, Salimah Railway Station

This clinic at the Salimah Railway Station gives free healthcare for the slum dwellers who make the surrounding area of the railyard their home. Here Calcutta Rescue provides medical relief for more than 900 families, mainly targetting the Railway Children who barely etch out an existence collecting bottles, cans and other recyclable waste for a few rupees a day.

A toddler being administered a concoction of Vitamin A and deworming medicine. To date, more than 5,000 slum dwellers in this area alone have undergone treatment since the slum program was started some 2 years ago.

About 50 patients turn up at these twice weekly visiting clinics and it does take a few hours to see them all. A little girl awaits her turn.

A small school set up last year provides rudimentary education for about 60 slum children. The children are currently receiving a lesson in the importance of hygiene.

The school is housed in a tiny brick hut and can be extremely uncomfortable in the summer months. Funds allow only for a single session taught by a lone educator.

Though poverty seemed rampant everywhere in the slums, there seemed to be a cheerful spirit amongst everyone I met during my visit.

Everyone was always ready with a smile, especially the children.

The unusually hot winter heat must have gotten to this little one.


Rural Programmes

Calcutta Rescue operates a number of mobile clinics in rural districts west of Calcutta. They provide medical relief for farming communities who otherwise have only limited access to ineffective government health services.

A tuberculosis patient waits for the doctor. Government programmes fighting against the spread of TB have thus far proved ineffective and the efforts of NGOs like Calcutta Rescue are a small drop in the ocean, but the fight presses on.

Waiting her turn. One thing which has struck me and many other photographers is the constant presence of colors prevalent in Indian culture, from clothing and homes to automobiles and street signs, everything is drabbed in bright strong colors.

A weaving loom manufactures bandages for use by the clinics of Calcutta Rescue. The organization operates a handicraft and small manufacturing facility in rural Bengal. It provides employment as well as skills training for weavers.

The loom hard at work.

Material weaved at the loom factory are used to create various handicraft items for sale in order to raise funds.

Some more Calcutta Rescue images may be found here.

Edit (27/9/06) - A new book on Dr Preger and Calcutta by Basil McCallis due out soon, a preview and more information here.

i came from clubsnap. the pictures are great.. calcutta (and ngo work in calcutta) is very close to my heart, so it's great to see your work with calcutta rescue.

popagandhi - thanks, i've visited your blog before, didn't realise you were from CS. Do you have any works of yours I can check out?

Ron - I was trying to maintain semi-anonyomity on this blog of mine but thanks la! I will be submitting some of these works as part of my portfolio for consideration in an exhibition to be held during Photography Week in June. Am also thinking of working on a fund raiser to promote awareness and raise funds for Calcutta Rescue. We'd see how those go. Please go ahead with the link, I appreciate it.

excellent. 'tuberculosis patient' takes the cake, definetly my pick.

I'm interested in the stuff you've done, visiting with NGOs and covering their work and what nots, also, that photography week thing in June dfinetly sounds intriuging. can't find an email to contact you with, so I'll just leave mine here gosu_john@hotmail.com if you wouldn't mind I'd like to learn more about how you went about hooking up with the NGOs n stuff.

:) yeah i'm on CS too. mostly lurk but take part once in a while. i sent you an email, and linked you on my site.

Hey! Your pictures worth more than a thousand words and like popagandhi said close to heart. Look forward to seeing more of your works! BTW, ok to link your blog to mine?

Cat Flying - Thanks, sure please go ahead with the link. It'd be great to spread awareness of the good deeds this NGO is doing.

Great picture! Very touching story...

Thanks for the comment on my blog, and it's alright - the more pple get to see the gorgeous pics you take and learn from the things u've seen, the better. Godbless.

great photos and accompanying writeup!! Very heartwarming to see the excellent NGO work in india. Do let me know if you are still doing collections for Indon or elsewhere.

Ta for the comments.

k - kinda hard to figure out which k this is if you don't provide a couple more clues.kng? kkway? ktan? ? kheah? drop me an email :)

nice shots...h

Great documentary works !! The pictures of the children really touches my heart.Thanks for showing the works of Calcutta Rescue to us.

Deautiful post. So many images of the city that we rarely get to see, even when living there. Thanks!

what a superb piece... the photographs are stunning and so moving... I am glad I came here from desipundit... (where do I find you on flickr?)

Great photos! Yes are you on flickr?


One of the best snaps I have ever seen. Especially the meal time picture made me stare at the monitor for 5 mins with my mouth open. Beautiful color, emotions and innocence is shown in the picture. Great work!!.

Wow great pictures, I love the colours. Its funny since I worked at Loreta Day School for 3 months, did you get a chance to take pictures of the children on the top floor ? thats where I taught for 3 months. Amazing experience.

Thanks for your kind comments. My flickr is still a bit in a mess, will post a link up when I clean it up a little. Check back on the blog for details.

Nestor - I wasn't photographing the kids at Loreto. The Calcutta Rescue clinic operates within a corner of the ground floor compound in the school and my photography was limited to the activities of the clinic. I did however notice quite a few other volunteers working with the kids in the school.

Hi there, came to your link via clubsnap. Very impressive series you got there. You've captured the mood so well. Must be sad to see the situation there..

Thumbs up for your wonderful work.


wonderful series here. Came over from CS.
you have captured the moments wonderfully.

Dear Terence, Many thanks for this magnificent contribution to supporting the work of Calcutta Rescue. And for your very generous donation. You & your companion gave us all encouragement to continue our efforts to assist those most in need in West Bengal. With best wishes, Jack Preger.

Well done, great to see Dr Jack's work is still going my wife and I work for a time with Dr Jack in 1987 on Middleton Row. Life changing for both of us. Peter Liddle

Thank you for helping to publicize Calcutta Rescue. Dr. Jack, his partner Pamela, his volunteers and staff are doing tremendous work. Any help to spread the word can only be beneficial to the organization. When Dr. Jack was in Kingston, Ontario, Canada last fall, he and the patients and schoolchildren of CR touched the heart of many of us and we have since formed a support group which is growing stronger every day. We have just received the good news that his nomination was accepted for the Queen's University Chancellor Dunning Trust Lecture - so that means he will be here again in October 2006 to talk to even more people about CR. Everything helps. Thank you.

hi terrence
finally got a hold of your blog.
glad i got to know your work
and enjoyed them very much.
i do like that 'warm' quality in your work. not 'warm'in color but in terms of your view toward your subject, can feel that you respect them very much and are in tune with them.

see you around for the MOP gig.

Hi Terrance, Good work on the photos. As a past volunteer, the pictures transported me back in time, and triggered off some very cherished memories..... Good luck with your career x

Hmm.. i am wondering if u are known as Terrance Chao (sorry if i got the name wrongly), i remembered seeing some framed shots at Bras Basah, inside one of the photo studio, name which I forgotten just yesterday. The shots looked the same as what were being posted in your Blog! haha.. And resembles yor style of shooting! Great shots, and all the best and success for the fund raising for Calcutta Rescue!

Nanaco... sorry, I'm not Terrance Chao. Thanks for your comments.

Hi, just chanced upon your blog. very nice pictures ... I like this entry and the joo chiat ones

sorry to seem to be spamming you, but this is ONE REALLYREALLY GREAT PIECE OF WORK! (im from CS too.haha.)

Your photos...are wonderful and bring back so many memories, thank you for letting me see Jack again after twenty and more years.
I worked with Jack from 1984 to 85 - the most worthwhile thing I have ever done.
Thank you again for your accurate - and compassionate - portrayal of the only genuine hero I have ever encountered in my life.
John (formerly from Ireland)

my name is joe i worked with jack from june 1989 for a year a great experience and humbling experience. i worked in middleton row and built some great friendships however as years passed i lost contact with all. i worked in dressing clinic, pharmacy and did the books for a long time, this give me the opportunity of negotiating best price for dollor or pound and let me have an insight to the underworld of calutta. Jack i found to be a humble man and honourable man and believe me said what he thought, no holes barred. would like to hear on site from people of old and see pictures of past volunteers.

Hello sir,
I found your blog very interesting. Especially because you have photos of Calcutta and the MV Doulos. Now, I am a resident of Calcutta and have served on the MV doulos as well, I found your pictures very exciting. Do write to me at florygp@gmail.com if you like more inside information on both these topics.
Take care,

Terence, Great photos. God Bless You.

Hi Terence,
Absolutely inspiring... touches one's heart that demands a response... get involved !
There are needs out there and one
cannot walk away... your pics
say all that and more !!!
Keep on clicking...and send out
the Word !!
Hung Leng

wow very nice posting!

Kudos - nice images! Very well done. For more information, there is an informative website about Dr. Jack Preger at www.jackpreger.com

Post a Comment

About me

  • I'm Mr Sanguine
  • From Singapore, Singapore
My profile

My ipod top weekly plays

mrsanguine's Last.fm Weekly Artists Chart

Subscribe in Bloglines
Subscribe in FeedLounge