DAY 1 & 2:
by Barbara Joubert, TMF Travel Coordinator
The Miracle Foundation is thrilled to announce that our newest Ambassadors—a group of 10 team members from Whole Foods Market—have arrived in India and our long-awaited partnership with Whole Foods Market and Whole Planet Foundation is officially underway!
Earlier this year, Whole Foods Market (WFM) and Whole Planet Foundation (WPF) generously donated funds for the purchase a fully refurbished playground. Then, earlier this week, they sent 10 WFM team members to India to install the playground at Sunrise Village in Tamil Nadu. Home to 50 orphaned children, Sunrise Village has been associated with The Miracle Foundation since 2006, when TMF helped with the initial design and construction of the children’s home.
Read further to learn all about the WFM team members first two days in India!
After a 14-hour flight, the Whole Foods Market team members landed in Mumbai, arriving during the festival of Ganesha Chaturthi, which celebrates Ganesha, the Hindu god of wisdom, prosperity, and protection. It was thrilling for the group to experience such an incredible celebration, immediately upon landing in Mumbai!
With only about 5 hours sleep, the Ambassadors boarded a second flight and traveled to Tirunelveli, a large town in Southeast India. While onboard, they met Sivamani, one of India’s most famous percussionists. He was interested to learn they were on their way to volunteer at a children’s home and quickly showed them pictures of a children’s home where he had recently performed, stating that he hopes to have the opportunity to perform for our children some day. He then gave each ambassador a set of wireless earphones, with 2,500 songs pre-loaded in each one. He ended his visit by playing bongos—in the middle of the baggage claim area. All the Ambassadors were thrilled to have such a warm welcome to India—not to mention such a unique experience—before they’d even left the airport!
Upon arrival in Tirunelveli, the travelers enjoyed a typical southern Indian lunch of thali. As is custom, everyone did their best to eat using only their right hand. Afterwards, the travelers ventured to the nearby market, as well as a huge department store (the Macy’s of Tirunelveli), where they shopped for saris in every color and pattern imaginable. They even got to see how sari fabric is woven on a traditional, man-powered loom.
Finally, that evening, after landing in country more than ten hours earlier, TMF’s newest Ambassadors arrived at their destination. As they passed through the gates of the children’s home, they received a traditional welcome from 50 beautiful children, their loving housemothers, and the dedicated staff of Sunrise Village. Suddenly, their jet lag vanished, and everyone was completely rejuvenated by the energy and enthusiasm of the children. After touring Sunrise Village and settling into their accommodations, the Ambassadors enjoyed yet another amazing meal. After a very exhilarating (and very long) 19-hour day, everyone fell into bed with full bellies and full hearts.
The first full day started early, with an amazing breakfast of Idily, followed by escorting the children to their bus stop. After seeing the kids off to school, the group met with the playground installation supervisor, who will help to guide them through the building of the playground. He carefully explained the task at hand and everyone joked about how nice it was to have an actual person to guide the process, as opposed to an incomprehensible instruction manual, à la Ikea! The Whole Foods team members proved themselves to be not only quick learners, but also efficient workers. Before the sun set that evening, they had built not one, not two, but three playground components, marked out the regulation-sized badminton court, filled holes, and even gave a fresh coat of paint to a recycled swing set!
Exhausted, yet ready for more fun, the Ambassadors then created unique and individualized nametags from Popsicle sticks, beads, and duct tape. After that, they spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the porch, enjoying the company of the children and the housemothers. That is, until it was time for the kids to do their schoolwork. Finals are coming up soon and they needed to study!
For dinner, the cooks Anne and Rita made yet another amazing meal. This time, it was masala dosa. Everyone did their part to eat everything on their plate, ensuring that nothing went to waste. After dinner, the Ambassadors joined the children at a short prayer service and participated in the birthday celebration of one of the older girls. The evening ended with everyone joining together to watch a beautiful procession put on by the local church in celebration of its 25th Anniversary.
Stay tuned . . . the WFM team members still a lot of work to do, sites to see and experiences to have before they head home and we’ll be blogging about it all. Also, we hope to be able to include illustrative photos soon. Slow Internet service at the children’s home made it impossible for the Ambassadors to e-mail their photographs. We hope this situation can be rectified in the days ahead, so our readers can see all the amazing things that the Ambassadors are experiencing!
Inspired by Whole Planet Foundation (WPF), Whole Foods Market (WFM) supports its team members in volunteering abroad in communities where WPF is funding poverty alleviation. Since 2007, over 100 WFM team members have provided community service in Costa Rica and Guatemala, teaching literacy skills, digging water trenches, reforestation, providing 80,000 meals and building carbon-efficient stoves. In 2011, over 60 team members will volunteer in Guatemala, Kenya, Peru, and India. For more information on Whole Planet Foundation and the Whole Foods Market Team Member Volunteer Program, visit http://www.wholeplanetfoundation.org/get-involved/team-member-volunteer/.