Volunteering in the Amazon

Katey GorskiTeam Member Volunteers

Kelly is a Whole Foods Market Team Member Volunteer who traveled to Brazil on two different volunteer trips. Read about her experience below.

Kelly harvesting açaí

Kelly harvesting açaí

In 2013 I went to Brazil for my first time through the Whole Foods Market Team Member Volunteer Program. I fell in love with the culture, the people and the food. I loved it so much I came back to Austin and enrolled myself in Portuguese classes. When the application process for 2014 opened, I applied again and was selected to go back! Here is a little bit of info on the program and my experience.

There were nine Team Members from all over the United States who met for the first time in São Paulo. We spent a few days being tourists and then we went to the favelas in Mala where we learned about the relationship Whole Planet Foundation has with Banco do Povo as well as the methodology, successes and challenges the bank faces. We then met 4 microloan recipients who get loans through Banco Do Povo. To see the extreme poverty they live in first-hand was hard and a real eye-opener. I’ve travelled to a lot of places around the world and I have never seen anything like this in my life.

Through the help of microcredit financing these women can take out a loan to start a small enterprise, run a stand in a local market or maintain a small home-based business like a beauty salon.

We then took a four hour plane ride north to Macapa. While we were there we provided some community work repainting a fence and wall at Casa Da Hospitalidade which was an orphanage for all ages. We also toured and worked at the Sambazon factory alongside factory workers to package açaí that may end up in a Whole Foods Market near you!

We got to tour an açaí grove where Sambazon sources product. We learned all about açaí and it’s antioxidant properties. We learned about sustainable harvesting and production. After that, we were given the rare opportunity to harvest. I didn’t make it up the tree in 2013 so I made it my goal that the next time I went to Brazil, I would harvest. After two attempts, I climbed up that skinny tree with a machete in the back of my shorts and chopped down a broom!

After we saw where Whole Foods Market sources product, we took an eight hour boat ride to a small community called Bailique where we helped construct a school. I am not good with a saw, so I painted a mural in the elementary wing of the school.

We also handed out water filtration devices to 25 families along the Amazon. Clean water is unheard of in the Amazon so these filtration devices are so important to the health and well-being of the community.

We swam in the Amazon, balanced on the equator, slept in hammocks, listened to holler monkeys in the jungle, played soccer with the locals and kids, ate some amazing food and were able to touch so many peoples lives all in two weeks.