In 2004, I traveled to India for the first time. During my month-long exploration, I found myself enchanted by the colors, spirituality, and rich cultural heritage of the country, and simultaneously shocked by the poverty, especially in the slums of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), my first destination.
I resolved to make a difference…
Then, on only my second day in India, I stumbled across The HOPE Foundation, an NGO founded by Maureen Forrest, an Irish woman who believes that her life “belongs to the whole community.” HOPE has many fantastic programs to help the most abandoned and destitute residents of Kolkata: Its street kids and slum dwellers. I visited their hospital, which serves the poorest of the poor; their free medical clinic located in the slums; a restaurant where HOPE residents learn to cook, serve, and run the business; the skill center where people with no employment opportunities can train in media and fashion; and two of the homes where street kids come to live and learn.
I felt totally inspired by the way HOPE empowers the people it serves, teaching them skills and helping them take back control of their lives. I loved the joy I saw on the children’s faces as they studied English and danced to Bollywood music on the rooftop of the orphanage. I immediately signed up to sponsor a child.
In the 11 years since, I have donated approximately $400 US to HOPE Foundation each year to care for my “adopted daughter,” Rama. I receive a brief update from the Home’s director, a recent photo of Rama, and a hand-drawn card from her each Christmas. I even had the opportunity to return to Kolkata in 2011, reconnecting with Rama, who was flourishing as a teenager under HOPE’s continued care.
And so it is with great delight that I share with you an opportunity to join HOPE in pursuing three of my greatest passions: Travel, yoga and volunteer service. This fall, from October 24 – November 5, 2015, you can join certified Chopra Vedic master Suzi von Mensenkampff and certified Pranic healer Gillian Houlihan as they lead the two-week program YOGA FOR HOPE in India.
As a participant, you will get to teach yoga to the children and staff living in and running the multiple HOPE homes. You do not have to be a yoga teacher, however! You simply are asked to be open to sharing your passion, and willing to learn from the delightful children you will meet. You also will experience tours of Kolkata, practice yoga and meditation with the trip leaders each evening, and raise money to fund HOPE’s amazing programs.
“Our collective vision for this yoga trip to India is to bring together people whose collective energy will provide healing, growth and inspiration to one another and to the street and slum children and carers you will meet in Kolkata on HOPE’s projects,” the trip leaders write.
Make a difference: in the lives of some of the world’s most needy children, and in your own heart. We all can help restore hope to this troubled world.