by Allie, TMF Ambassador
DAY 6: Inauguration Day – 18 September
Today began early, again, with a beautiful rickshaw ride to the Tirunelveli countryside. After a quick pick-me-up from a local chaiwalla, we continued on further into the more rural areas of the city. From the rickshaw, we were able to see several different kinds of birds, including the kingfisher, and also many lily pads and lotus flowers floating on the pond. When we arrived back at Sunrise Village, the kids were already up and about, enjoying their beautiful new playground. Before lunch, Sister G spoke a little about her crafts and everyone was blown away, not only by her beautiful crafts (mostly quilts, bags and aprons) but by her contagious positive attitude and smile as well. After another incredible lunch provided by the Sunrise staff, we headed back to our rooms to pack up and get ready for the inauguration of the playground. Since we had a little time before it all began, Rob set up a make-shift drum set using pans, pots and buckets and the boys had a blast creating some of their own tunes, Kaylee was popular with the girls, showing them how to make friendship bracelets and the rest of the staff was off playing on the playground with the kids.
The inauguration began and what a beautiful ceremony it was. It began with some opening remarks from Father X and finally, Joy (WPF’s Executive Partnership Development and Internal Programs Director) did the honors and cut the ribbon, officially inaugurating the playground. Next, the team members planted a small tree in the center of the playground and took turns watering it. As if the evening couldn’t get any better, we were all in for a huge treat. The children had prepared several dances and songs. Though they were all incredible, the dance performed by three little boys was definitely a crowd pleaser and their dance moves had everyone’s heads bobbing along. ThenTMF”s Program Director Jasdeep led the girls in her famous dance routine to “Jai Ho.” We ended this perfect evening with hot tea, several snacks and more than a few teary goodbyes. Though it was sad to say goodbye to this amazing community at Sunrise Village, we know the experience and children’s smiles will exist forever in our minds.
DAY 7: Trivandrum – 19 September
After an early train ride, we arrived in the beautiful state of Kerala. With its lush terrain and incredible coconut and palm trees, we all thought we had arrived in paradise. When we exited the train station, we realized that we were hearing a very unfamiliar sound: silence. The usual hustle and bustle throughout the streets of India and the constant horns blowing from the rickshaw drivers were nowhere to be heard. It was then we realized there was a strike. As we made our way to the hotel, it felt eerie being one of the only cars on the road, but also a relief not to have other cars and rickshaws weaving in and out of traffic. Because of the strike, we were essentially forced to relax, with some members heading to the pool and others adventuring out into town for a walk. Later in the afternoon, the newest members of our group (Whole Foods Market Partners) joined us, and we ended the day with a beautiful poolside dinner and presentations from both Joy (from WPF) and Barbara (from TMF), further explaining the missions and the partnership of the two organizations and showing photos of the newly installed playground to the newest members of the group.
DAY 8: Trivandrum – 20 September
After a relaxing first day in Trivandrum, we made up for it the next day with a fun-filled day of learning and exploration. We began the day on a tour with Jai Raj of a local vegetable market. It was interesting to learn about the vegetables here and many of the team members were excited to be able to purchase spices and other grains to bring home with them. From the market, we continued on to a more rural area of town to visit the women receiving micro loans from Whole Planet Foundation. We were able to sit in on one of their meetings and visit their homes to see the looms and goats they bought with their micro loans. This experience was just another example of how extremely hospitable the people here are. All of the women were so proud and excited to demonstrate their talents and the team members were equally excited to be able to purchase beautiful white and gold sarees and dhotis from the women. After this, we headed east to Kovalum Beach and were completely blown away by the beautiful Arabian Sea and miles and miles of coconut trees. We enjoyed a beachside lunch and then went our separate ways to explore the beach, temples and do a little shopping back in Trivandrum.