This is the beginning of something I have never done before.

Seven days.

For those of you that do not know, I will be traveling throughout northern India with the Whole Foods Market Team Member Volunteer Program in one week’s time.

Something to keep in mind: I have never travelled outside of the United States before. I was born and raised in the Bay Area of the lovely (although, currently on fire and lacking sufficient water) California. I technically went to Vancouver once. For 48 hours. I drove there, and the border patrol did not even stamp my passport. It looked a lot like home, so I consider this “international” travel a fluke.

I have worked for Whole Foods Market for two and a half years now. Before I was even an official member of the team, a boss of mine pulled me aside and told me about this incredible program. The Whole Foods Market Team Member Volunteer Program sponsors employees (who are eligible, apply, and chosen by a panel) to travel to certain destinations around the world. These destinations are not just chosen at random, and the point of the trips are not merely funded vacations. The point of this program is to educate team members about Whole Foods’ nonprofit, The Whole Planet Foundation, and shape them into ambassadors for the program.

As I learn more about this foundation, I am only increasingly inspired to get involved.

Have you ever heard of micro loans? I am almost positive you have. They are an incredibly innovative model of microfinance that, like all innovative programs in my opinion, come from a simple premise: approach each individual circumstantially and compassionately. They give extremely poor individuals tiny loans at small interest rates that they can pay back. Empower the poor, and help circulate the local economy. I am learning more and more about these kinds of loans everyday, and I can’t help but be so invigorated and motivated.

I could go on and on about all of the details of this program, its’ sister programs, and all of the amazing work they are doing in the area I will be visiting. So as not to bore you, I will leave you with links for your own education:

The Whole Planet Foundation: www.wholeplanetfoundation.org (This is Whole Foods Markets’ nonprofit organziation that is helping to alleviate poverty worldwide through microloans)

Traditional Medicinals Foundation: www.traditionalmedicinalsfoundation.org (This includes their REVIVE! Project that is absolutely amazing. It involves empowerment programs in very rural India, where women and girls are essentially treated as indentured servants)

The Miracle Foundation: www.miraclefoundation.org (This program helps orphanages around the world create empowering home environments for the children to reach their full potential.)

Please read about these foundations, and find your own personal spin on how to get involved in our global community.

I cannot express my sense of gratitude and excitement for this trip. My entire life I have known in my heart that my purpose on this planet was to serve others. No matter what the title, my purpose has been to make the lives of others more pleasant. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Whole Foods would give me my first opportunity to do just that when I applied back in May 2014.

So in the midst of my excitement and nervousness (16 hour flights?! Going through Indian customs alone?! A city full of millions of people who don’t speak the same language?!) I just want to reiterate how grateful I am.

If you have ever felt powerless, you know how revitalizing empowerment is. I have felt powerless plenty of times in my life. So I am very excited for a trip that will only reinforce my passion for the empowerment of others, and hopefully be the beginning of a career doing just that.

Stay tuned for updates and journalistic posts about my trip! We’re all in this together. :)

Maddie OUT.

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