It's our last day of school in Pena Blanca; we've been volunteering at a rural community school for the past three weeks and today the kids in the first grade class are surprisingly quiet. I've grown accustomed to the morning madness of the children in the classroom I was assisting in and to deal with it I learned five ways to ask them to quiet down in Spanish. Today was eerily calm because, as I would learn later, the kids had been assigned to draw me goodbye pictures of Lake Atitlan and were diligently coloring in the volcanoes and the lake. In this moment, I wondered if I'd come here to help make their lives better, or if they had a greater impact on mine.
In my three years working for Whole Foods Market, I’ve had constant reminders of my good fortune. From working for a company whose values I truly believe in to being mere steps away from the food wonderland we call our flagship store in Austin, TX, I know that I’m one lucky gal.
This summer, I was chosen to participate in the Whole Foods Market Team Member Volunteer Program
. Twenty-five team members from stores and offices around the US and Canada were given the opportunity to travel to Guatemala for 2-4 weeks to experience the power of microcredit first-hand, to see where some of our Allegro coffee beans are grown and to volunteer in a rural community, teaching and building stoves.
Not only do I feel fortunate to have been able to spend part of my summer volunteering in Guatemala with the Whole Planet Foundation
, but also I’m thankful for the wonderful people with whom I got to share the experience. Here are some words from my fellow Team Members about our journey to Central America.
One day on the street I was sitting reading the book from Dr. Yunus about Microcredit (Creating a World Without Poverty). A woman approached me to sell some of her textiles, as they often did, and I recognized her from the Grameen meeting earlier in the week so I asked her if she was a member of the group and she was very proud to say yes! She explained that every 15 days she paid 100 Quetzales (about $12) to the bank. “Cada quince dias, cien quetzals! Cien Quetzales! Cien Quetzales!!” She was very enthusiastic and proud. We visited a while on how things were going and she said that things have definitely gotten better for her the last two years since she was a member of the group. It was a beautiful moment- to meet an individual who has benefitted from the work of Dr. Yunus and seeing the efforts of Whole Planet Foundation touch the lives of the poor, empowering them so that they can help themselves. This was one of my favorite experiences. The trip was a great experience to learn fist hand how Whole Planet and microcredit are empowering the poor to help themselves lift themselves up out of poverty.
Julie | South Region
It was so impactful to be able to sit in the microloan center and learn that it existed in Panajachel because of the Whole Planet Foundation. The money that Team Members donate through their paychecks and that the community donates during the campaign are touching lives in this community and around the world.
Grace | Fort Collins, CO
One day, we hiked to a coffee finca where Whole Foods Market sources some of its prime Allegro coffee. We were amazed to learn that the farmers routinely carry 100-pound sacks of fertilizer up the mountainside—at 8,000 ft. elevation—and carry even larger bushels of coffee beans back down! The native Guatemalans I met during this trip were some of the most hardworking and unstoppable people I’ve ever encountered. I was continually amazed by their perseverance and generosity. It made me realize how truly fortunate we are in the United States to have so many resources available to us.
Lauren | Chicago, IL
On the school…
We were set on a mission to help a local elementary school high in the mountains and to build stoves for the family of the children who attend that school. Like all volunteers we showed up eager to do good in the world and to leave some kind of an impression behind. After a few weeks of working with the children and their families you start to wonder who is touching whose life here. What I am trying to say is that this culture has an innocence and openness in the way of connecting that we rarely encounter in the States. We have forgotten sometimes how to really connect and touch others in our daily life.
Robert | Fresh Ponds, MA
On stove building…
Working on the stoves was hard work, but seeing how dire the family’s situation was before the stove was finished, made me glad to do the work, as it improves both their lives and their health. It also made me realize how much I take many of the things in my life for granted, and now that I’m back home, I’ve vowed to appreciate what I have much more.
Danielle | La Jolla, CA
On the experience…
I just feel blessed to be counted as one of the volunteers in Guatemala. I grew up in Guatemala City and had no idea what life was like in the countryside. After just one month there, I learned that it’s the simple things that are the ones that make us happy. I want to thank everyone who went on the trip for taking valuable time from their busy lives to spend in Guatemala with the Whole Planet Foundation.
Gustavo | Boston, MA
We hope that reading a little bit about our experiences in Guatemala has inspired you to give back - whether it be to your local community or your global one. If you would like to support the efforts our in the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala, please consider donating to one of these worthwhile causes:
Providing school meals at Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
Improving school conditions for Mayan children
Building energy efficient stoves
You can also donate directly to the Whole Planet Foundation
. 100% of your contribution goes directly towards micro-credit projects