As my second TMVP trip comes to a close, I’m grateful for the opportunity to have volunteered twice with the Whole Planet Foundation. This time, in Peru, proved to be more of a physically demanding project vs. the Guatemala project in 2008, which I would consider to be more emotionally challenging. Since this was my first time going to South America, I had no expectations at all and I was totally open and surrendered myself to the experience. I was amazed at how diverse the area of Peru was that we were volunteering in. In Arequipa, where we stayed, was a beautiful and somewhat ancient city with gorgeous architecture and amazing history. Then just around the corner, near the volcanoes, were villages just as poor as any you could imagine. For me personally, this is the reason why I love volunteering … I always want people to have an opportunity at something better, and it was so gratifying to be able to contribute to this dream for such a deserving community. It seems small, but the 12 of us were part of something that will change 132 families lives forever, by simply giving them an area to collect water – a modern convenience we all have benefited from all our lives as Americans.
During our first week of being immersed into the Peruvian culture, we met with Pro Mujer clients in Mollendo and were invited to sit in on their communal bank. Many of them were farmers, but there were mechanics as well. There were a wide range of businesses being started by the recipients from hair salons to pastry shops to jewelry stores. During our conversations with the recipients, they were just as happy to see us as we were them, and the appreciation was evident! In addition to offering credit, Pro Mujer also takes interest in their personal development by offering business and empowerment training, preventive health education and primary health care services, which made my heart feel good.
A major highlight of the TMVP trip was our 3 day visit to Cusco and our visit to Machu Picchu. Every step you take could easily take your breath away, and our guide Carlos was one of the best in the business, explaining and detailing every inch of this majestic wonder of the world. This is something I never thought I would see with my own eyes in this lifetime, and being part of the TMVP afforded me this opportunity that I would never have had otherwise, we truly work for a remarkable and AWESOME company!
Although it is hard work, time away from family, and exhausting, I would do it all again a million times over. Whole Foods is truly a leader in innovation, and we can be part of that! The TM’s that I have met, during both projects, will now be life-long friends and we are bound by this experience. However big or small, we all can do our part to help eliminate poverty…….whether it be by volunteering in the field or by supporting Whole Planet here at home. I encourage any and all TM’s who are considering a volunteer trip to GO FOR IT!! You will be fulfilled in more ways than I can explain, as it has done for me……..twice.