One Journey Ends & Another Continues

November 12, 2009

We created this trip with the hopes that it would be a life changing experience.  That was our goal.  So now we ask ourselves, did we succeed?

After listening to the answers of our winners, we think the answer is Yes.  And then we realize, of course we did.  How can you see the hopeful smiles of children just pulled from a mica mine, have them dance with you in shear joy, and not be changed.  How can you see bashful school children who are as mesmerized with you as you are with them, listen to them greet you with “hello teacher” then see the water tank we just funded sitting only feet away, and not be changed.  How can you realize that just the night before the water from that tank was drained in a village power play, and not be changed?  How can you gaze at the snow capped peaks of the Himalayas at sunrise, be delighted by peacocks and monkeys roaming wild, realize the incredible beauty of the planet and not be changed. 

Water Flowing rom the Tank at the School

Water Flowing From the Tank at the School


Breathtaking View of the Ganges

Breathtaking View of the Ganges

After meeting some of the most lovely and generous people in the world, and viewing the most breathtaking scenery, you are perplexed by the many contrasting situations.   A barrage of people stepping over a homeless woman sleeping with her child on the street- only realizing a child is there when you see his small dirty hand holding his mother’s as it peaks out from under a blanket.  It is heartbreaking beyond words and you can’t understand how this could happen.  You are shocked by the endless array of garbage littering the streets and even the remote walking paths of the Himalayas.  And if you are a dog lover, the endless supply of slum dogs is more than disturbing. But then you ask yourself, what do we allow to happen at home that we conveniently ignore.  How do we treat our homeless, why do we euthanize millions of unwanted dogs and cats each year? How do we protect the environment and wildlife in our own backyard?  If you ask yourself any of these questions, and answer truthfully, how can you not be changed?

Our Favorite Cared for Dog at the Glass House

Our Favorite Cared for Dog at the Glass House

How can you return home and turn on the tap for the first time and not be incredibly thankful for what now seems like the luxury of clean free flowing water, and not be changed.  Finally, how can you see the effects of what we have accomplished through Global Greengrants Fund & Earth Month and not feel overwhelmed with an incredible sense of pride for what we do, and gratitude for our company that holds giving back as one of its most important objectives.  Choose only one of the above, and then you will realize that you are changed.

The Team in Earth Month 2009 T-shirts

The Team Proudly Wearing Earth Month 2009 T-shirts

 Thank you for taking the virtual trip with us and for your kind and caring comments.  We were all so honored by your genuine interest.   We hope you will join us as we celebrate Earth Month in April at an Aveda Walk for Water or Appointment for the Earth.  In a way, our trip lives on as we carry the torch from India to raise money & awareness for clean water in our own backyard.  At home, we can make a difference on a daily basis working to protect and conserve the water we’re so fortunate to have.  We come full circle by buying the Light the Way™ candle whose proceeds helps change lives by funding water projects around the world, like the one we saw in India.  And when you change the world, you realize you yourself are changed.  Pretty cool accomplishment for a candle.  So while the journey of India ended, please let another one begin.  One that continues to change the world.  See you in April.

Namaste,

Katie and Gigi

Gigi & Katie on the Ganges

Gigi & Katie on the Ganges

Full Circle

November 12, 2009
Back in Delhi, Tuesday was our last day in India.  Wow did it ever feel like the trip went fast yet we saw so much!  On Tuesday morning we were privileged to have four individuals representing Greengrants’ work in India visit us to talk about some of the projects Aveda Earth Month candle proceeds are supporting.  In many ways, the presentations we heard from these four people perfectly encapsulated what we had seen and experienced on this trip.  First we heard from Ravi Agarwal who was Greengrants first Indian Advisor and now works with an organization called Toxics Link.  Ravi outlined the many issues that affect water in India and the challenges faced in a country of 1.2 billion people.  He also emphasized the need for bottom-up approaches that empower those people who are traditionally the most disempowered. 
Next we heard from a Greengrants grantee – the Janhit Foundation – and learned about the great work they are doing to educate women in sustainable agriculture and pesticide reduction, rainwater harvesting and catchment systems, and reduction of toxins and contaminants.  Our last presentation was from a Greengrants consultant that is leading a project in the Himalayan village of Tilwari that will deliver safe drinking water to the villagers.  This project was entirely funded by Aveda Earth Month candle proceeds and is another way we’re improving access to clean water in the region surrounding the birthplace of Aveda.   The project takes a very comprehensive approach to bring a sustainable water supply system to the village using water catchment and storage tanks, education around sanitation and water conservation, and ongoing maintenance of the system.  
The group agreed that the morning of presentations really was the perfect way to spend the last day of the trip.  It helped the group more fully understand the impact they’re helping to make in India and provided the inspiration and motivation to continue as leaders in fundraising through Earth Month.    
The group with Greengrants project leaders.

The group with Greengrants project leaders.

After lunch with our Greengrants guests, we had some time to shop and purchase souvenirs and gifts for our teams at home.  We all appreciated having Catherine Porter’s guidance and experience to help navigate the shopping scene in Delhi.  It was a fun-filled afternoon followed by a lovely dinner together at the Imperial Palace Hotel.  Tom surprised the group by announcing facetious awards for each member of the group.  It was a really funny way to remember and recount our experience in India before spending one last trip on the bus together for our midnight flights back to the states.

Sunrise over the Himalayas

November 12, 2009

When we heard we were coming to the Himalayas, we had visions of snow capped mountains, sherpas and maybe even altitude sickness.  OK, the latter we could do without.  So  when we got off the train at Haridwar, it was a little disappointing to see what in comparison were rolling hills.  And definitely no snow.  The disappointment faded quickly as we drove on those “hill’s” winding cliffs on a daily basis. 

Typical Mountain Road

Typical Mountain Road-It is Best Not to Look Out the Window

 So on our last day we didn’t mind getting up at 5 am to see the sunrise over the Himalayas we had dreamed about.  After taking cars up an 11 kilometer path (our bus couldn’t fit on the road), we walked up 300 steps to a beautiful Hindu temple. 

Kunjapuri Temple

Kunjupuri Temple at Sunrise

After waiting for about 30 minutes, sipping the absolute best tea ever-a ginger, lemon, honey, mint recipe that Ananda creates, and enjoying some muffins, it was truly incredible to see the sun come over the mountains, of which we like to think were Tibet.  We know we were looking in the right direction, but hard to say that we could see all the way there.  It didn’t matter.  The sunrise was incredible.  All of a sudden, the sun peaked up over the horizon, and then slowly and steadily rose until it was just there all the time.  Beautiful!

Sunrise on our last day in the Himalayas

Sunrise on our last day in the Himalayas

 Just as exciting was looking to the North and seeing what we had hope for since we arrived in the Himalayas.  The snow capped mountains.  True, they were in the distance, there were no sherpas, and I don’t think we could see K2 or Mount Everest.  It didn’t matter.  How many people are lucky enough to see the snow capped mountains of the Himalayas even from a distance.  We were thrilled.
Snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas.
Snowcapped peaks of the Himalayas.

As if that wasn’t zen enough, Marc lead yet another meditation session at the temple,  as he did almost daily at Ananda.  It completed the morning. 

Morning Meditation with Marc

Morning meditation at Ananda with Marc

Sadly, it was time to leave Ananda.  Although were all happy to be going home soon to our families, it was hard to leave this side of the world, a place unlike any other.  Where else do you see peacocks and moneys roaming wild while wearing white Kurta Pyjamas and being wished a constant namaste by all those who past.  I can’t imagine where else that would happen, but it would be worth visiting, or hopefully coming back. 

Beautiful Ananda

Beautiful Ananda

Monkeying Around At Ananda

Monkeying Around At Ananda

Team in Kurta Pyjamas

The Team Shares a Moment of Zen Moment in Kurta Pyjamas

Rolling on the River

November 12, 2009
Sunday was a day that many people on this trip were looking forward to.  It was a chance to do something “touristy” while traveling in the Himalayan foothills, not all that far from the source of the Ganges River.  Today we took a whitewater rafting trip on the Ganges and enjoyed every minute, every splash and every bit of paddling! 
Gearing up for whitewater rafting on the Ganges.

Gearing up for whitewater rafting on the Ganges.

Ready to roll.

Ready to roll.

With a crew of seven from our group, we set off just up river from The Glass House where we had been for lunch two days earlier.  Kirk was the first to brave the cold temperatures of the glacial meltwater and jumped into the river not two minutes after launching our raft.  After a refreshing dip, he was back in the raft and we were off to our first set of rapids called “Three Blind Mice.”  It was a blast!  Everyone got absolutely soaked, but we think the guide was deliberately positioning Tom Petrillo for the brunt of it!  In between laughing and splashing, we did a bit of paddling (thankfully we had a very competent guide to steer us clear of the rocks)!  At one point we even got to bodysurf through some milder rapids.  I don’t think that’s anything any of us were prepared to do in India – bodysurfing on the Ganges River!  After a couple of joyful hours on the river we reluctantly landed the raft on the banks of the Ganges and boarded the bus back to Ananda.  Exiting the raft we observed reality in India with rows of tinroof dwellings underneath a bridge.  Quite the contrast to our rafting experience.     

A dose of reality in India.

A dose of reality in India.

We met the rest of our group for lunch at Ananda and then enjoyed a more restful afternoon with spa services and relaxation. 

Donning our white Ananda pyjamas, we spent time this evening talking and learning about Global Greengrants Fund from Catherine Porter, Chair of the Greengrants Board of Directors.  This was a wonderful opportunity for the group to learn more about the Greengrants approach to philanthropy and what makes them and our partnership so unique.   Catherine helped the group understand the power of small grants and how the Greengrants model is able to empower communities and give them a voice in the decisions that affect their natural resources and well-being.   It was a wonderful way to spend our last night at Ananda.   

Pyjama party at Ananda.

Pyjama party at Ananda.

A Day filled with Aveda Stories and History

November 1, 2009

First off, we need to say that we’re having trouble uploading pictures to the blog due to a slow connection, so unfortunately our current posts won’t have the benefit of visual storytelling.  We did have a wonderful day Saturday seeing first hand the birthplace of Aveda.  This was a really meaningful day for everyone, as it allowed us to learn more about the history and legacy of the company and reminded us how proud we all are to be a part of it. 

We started the day touring the organic herbal garden of the lovely and kind Dr. and Dr. Mrs. Upadhyay.  The extensive garden is filled with traditional ayurvedic plants. Everyone loved learning about the various plants and how they are used in ayurvedic remedies and practices.  

The group takes in the vetiver aroma.

The group enjoys the vetiver aroma.

Kristine and Dr. Upadhyay.

Kristine and Dr. Upadhyay.

Next we visited the Swami Rama Ashram, the place where Aveda’s founder studied ayurveda.  We enjoyed a meditation session followed by the best chai many of us had ever had.  Dr. Upadhyay led us on a tour of the ashram, which is situated directly on the Ganges River with spectacular views of the Himalayan foothills. 

Entrance to the Swami Rama Ashram

Entrance to the Swami Rama Ashram.

 

Beautiful views on the Ganges.

Beautiful views on the Ganges.

After a delicious Indian lunch in the town of Haridwar, we were honored to be welcomed into the home of the Dr. and Dr. Mrs. Upadhyay.  The doctors have advised Aveda for over 30 years on ayurveda and product development.  They shared stories and photos with us from the very early days of Aveda in the late 70’s and proudly showed us their own garden and herbal products.  We were all inspired by our visit with the doctors and came away with many stories to share with our friends and colleagues back home.  The group felt very special to receive such tremendous warmth and hospitality from the Upadhyays. 

The group receives thoughtful gifts from the Upadhyays.

The group receives thoughtful gifts from the Upadhyays.

From the Upadhyays we headed to an aarti ceremony on the Ganges.  Traffic delayed us so we missed the start of the ceremony, but we were still able to see many lanterns being lit and people taking their holy dip in the river.  It was a beautiful sight and really a privilege to watch families share in this cleansing ceremony. 

On the way back to Ananda, Marc shared a third chakra lesson with the group on the bus.  This was a perfect way to close a day filled with Aveda heritage and ayurvedic immersion.

Water, water everywhere.

October 30, 2009

Our day started with a lovely breakfast at Ananda before heading out on the bus to the Glass House on the Ganges.  We were honored to experience a Ganga Puga, which is a sacred ritual to ask the river for purification and protection.  The spiritual leader offered each of us a sacred thread to wear around our wrist as a symbol of protection and a way to commemorate the moment.  We enjoyed a cup of tea in the Glass House and then headed out to visit a water project funded through Earth Month candle proceeds.

On the bank of the Ganges

On the bank of the Ganges

Ganga Puga

Sarah at Ganga Puga

The water project was in a small village outside Rishikesh and was funded by Save the Childhood Foundation – the organization we met on our first day.  The project is being done at a school of over 100 children that previously needed to haul their own drinking water on a 1.2 mile walk to their remote school at  the base of a rocky path. 

The trek to the school and well.

Maryanne leads the way to the water project.

They now have a 2,000 liter water tank fed by a small stream up the mountain.  Another tank and toilets will be installed so that the school has sanitation and the kitchen has water available for cooking and cleaning.  In these small remote villages water is power, so it’s actually a very delicate endeavor to support a water project like this.  For this reason, we were not able to take pictures and don’t have any photos to share at this time, but expect to have some at a later date to show everyone this wonderful project.  The project is so new, that today was actually the first day the children enjoyed clean water from the new water tank. 

The water tank at the village school.

The water tank that Earth Month candles funded.

The group was overjoyed to see these children’s happy faces.  They greeted us by saying “Good Morning teacher” and smiling in a sort of bashful manner.  These children had rarely, if ever seen foreigners so the chance to visit them was truly a privilege for us.  It was such a wonderful opportunity to see firsthand the results of Earth Month and a Greengrants/Save the Childhood Foundation project. 

School girls getting water.

School girls getting water.

Next we headed back to the Glass House for a beautiful lunch and sweeping views of the Ganges.  Some from our group even took a cleansing dip in the river after lunch.  What an experience to see our group immerse themselves in what the Hindu religion considers the holiest of rivers. 

Taking a dip in the Ganges.

Taking a dip in the Ganges.

On the way back to Ananda we got a dose of the quintessential Indian experience.  We were held up in traffic for over an hour due to a landslide on the mountain. We watched and waited as cars lined up and crews shoveled away the fallen debris.  The group remained in good spirits, making jokes and feeling as though an incident like this only makes our India experience more authentic.  According to Tom Petrillo, “we’re a bus full of flexible people.” 

Landslide on our way back to Ananda

Landslide blocking the road on our way to Ananda.

With our idle time we had an imprompu Ayurvedic nutrition lesson with Marc on the bus which was enjoyed by all.

Mark leads a chakra class on the bus.

Marc leads a chakra class on the bus.

Today was the most important day of our trip and the reason we came to India.  We were able to see a water project that resulted from Aveda’s Earth Month fundraising and the dedication of our trip winners.  The children’s faces made everything worthwhile – even a landslide couldn’t crush all the joy we were filled with from this day.

*Technology is not being our friend tonight and is not allowing us to upload photos.  We’ll try to post them tomorrow and cross our fingers that our internet connection is better!

Journey into the Himalayas

October 29, 2009

It was an early morning start for a long day of travel. The Delhi train station wasn’t as daunting as we thought it would be – but it certainly was an eye opener. Jet lag seemed to really set in for many of us today, but in spite of our fatigue, we were all transfixed looking out the train windows on the journey north into the foothills of the Himalayas. We saw beautiful landscapes and passed through many small villages along the way seeing quite a spectrum of sights. There were rural areas with people working in the fields and gathering plant materials contrasted by villages with trash piled along the railroad tracks and people bathing in dirty puddles of water. We also saw an endless array of animals including donkeys, horses, goats, dogs (and surprisingly dogs wearing sweaters!), peacocks, monkeys, and pigs.

After a six hour train ride we arrived at the Haridwar train station in the foothills of the Himalayas, which was truly the India we imagined.

Haridwar Train Station

Haridwar Train Station

When our bus passed over the sacred Ganges River and we caught sight of the giant Lord Shiva statue, it was clear we were a long way from home.

Lord Shiva Statue

Lord Shiva Statue on the Ganges

After a long hairpin drive up the mountain, we were greeted at Ananda with a warm welcome from the staff and lovely ginger tea.

Greeting at Ananda

Traditional Greeting at Ananda

Prior to settling into dinner we had a wonderful Dosha education and meditation session with Marc Zollicoffer. An original poem by Kirk beautifully summed up the day for the team and we’re happy to be able to share part of it with you here. Enjoy.

“And the night winds gather together dancing and bending. Worry matters not in this sacred place. My load is lighter with Mother Earth providing a hiding place for all cares and problems to disappear. Five senses working together for one united cause. Fifteen people working together to achieve beautiful things. One company at the wheel giving back the most precious things we all possess.”

Peacocks roam free at Ananda

Peacocks roam free at Ananda

A Wonderful Way to Begin

October 28, 2009

What a day. This was an amazing way to begin our trip in India – and we couldn’t imagine the things that were in store for us today. First let us start with probably the most important item of the day – David Hircock has safely arrived in Delhi. We had been told that he missed his train, but as it turns out we were only told that so we wouldn’t worry. In reality, his train was hijacked by gunmen last night a few stops before he got on. Obviously the hijacking caused a delay and quite a commotion here in India – it was front page news in all the newspapers and on all news networks. Are we nervous that we’re going on a train tomorrow? No, not really. David assures us that after last night’s incident, the trains are probably safer now than ever. That’s what we like to think.

As we were driving to the Mukti Ashram, the group was overcome by the sights they were seeing outside our tour bus. The poverty and the chaos are indescribable. It makes you understand why it’s so important that we help make a difference for people here. Amidst the chaos was a sight that lifted everybody’s spirits – an elephant walking down the middle of the street amid bustling traffic. Apparently elephants here are highly regarded and used in festivals and wedding ceremonies. He commanded respect not only by his size but by his significance.

Elephant in Delhi street

Elephant in Delhi street

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the day was our visit with children rescued from India’s mica mining industry. These children are now in the care of the Save the Childhood Foundation, founded by Kailash Satyarthi and his wife, at the Mukti Ashram outside Delhi.  Here they are educated, clothed, sheltered, rehabilitated and in most cases returned to their families.

Mukti Ashram entrance

Mukti Ashram entrance

The mica mining industry is notorious for child labor practices and with David Hircock’s guidance, Aveda has been working to help change industry practices so that child labor can be eliminated. We’ve been working with the Save the Childhood Foundation to support their efforts to rescue children from mining and establish “Child Friendly Villages” where they will be protected from child labor. As part of Aveda’s Earth Month campaign two years ago, our Global partner, Global Greengrants Fund, made a grant to Save the Childhood Foundation specifically to help rebuild and install clean water wells in nine Child Friendly Villages – this made our visit today even more meaningful. We expected to see children beaten down by society but instead we saw children filled with hope, strength and love. A shining example was Mohammed who just two weeks ago was rescued from a mica mine. His goal used to be to learn how to read bus numbers. Now that he has been rescued, his new goal is to become a doctor. Other children spoke about becoming judges, electricians, and working to eliminate child labor forever.

Children in Ashram Classroom

We were so proud of Rochelle who spoke to the children on behalf of our group. After arriving on her first trip overseas and away from her husband and children, she was emotionally overwhelmed by the ride to the hotel. She was the last person we expected to be able to keep a dry eye and speak to these children without breaking down.

Rochelle speaks to the children

Rochelle speaks to the children

Rochelle speaks on behalf of our entire group when she says the children’s strength inspired her and gave her hope for a better future for them and for us all. While she didn’t cry, everyone else was in tears…except the children who laughed, sang, spoke, performed for us and danced with us.

Children dancing

Children dancing

We’re extremely glad David is safe and we loved seeing the elephant, but it is the children that we will all remember most from this day.

The Aveda group at the Ashram

The Aveda group at the Ashram with Kailash Satyarthi and his charming wife.

Happy cow outside the Ashram

Happy cow outside the Ashram

The Team Arrives

October 28, 2009

They’re here. Well, most everyone. The Winners arrived safely. Tired but with energy to get started. As with any large tour, especially one traveling to a country like India, something is bound to go not as planned. Well, David Hircock, an experienced India and world traveler already in country doing work, missed his train. Minor snafu, but it won’t stop us. Our motto-always have an alternative! So we carry on without him and look forward to seeing him tonight.

The team arrived late last night, greeted by a spritz or two of All Sensitive Toner and an Aveda reusable tote (100% recycled cotton and plastic bottles) filled with goodies, including a Clif Bar, Aveda Blue Oil (needed after a long trip) and offsets by NativeEnergy. These are really cool. All the participants CO2 emissions from flights to and from India, as well as in country travel are being offset by NativeEnergy and will support a new wind farm in Greensburg Kansas, which was destroyed by an F5 tornado. They are rebuilding green, wanting to be as they say, “the greenest town in America”. Groovy!

Back to India.  After a good night sleep we are looking forward to visitng the Mukti Asharam where we will meet children that have been rescued from slave labor in mica mines – this was arranged by David and is a good example of the type of work he supports on Aveda’s behalf.  This is the day that Kirk from San Diego is most looking forward to. So we will update you later with more details from the team. Namaste.

Weblink:  www.nativeenergy.com/greensburg

Welcome to India!

October 27, 2009

Every April, in honor of Earth Day, Aveda celebrates “Earth Month” with global fundraising activities and events to raise awareness around a specific environmental issue. This year’s theme, “Clean Water – It Only Takes Baby Steps” focused on protecting clean water at home and around the world. The Aveda network of salons, spas, stores, and institutes and their guests raised a monumental $3.25 million for Aveda’s 20+ non-profit Earth Month Partners. Thank you!

A key fundraising element was the Light the Way candle, from which all proceeds are donated to Global Greengrants Fund for projects that help protect water in countries where Aveda sources ingredients. Global Greengrants Fund is a non-profit organization that makes small grants to grassroots environmental organizations in developing countries working to protect their natural resources and empower communities. If you purchased an Earth Month candle, you helped make these projects possible. If you would like to support these efforts, a limited quantity of Earth Month candles is still available in Aveda stores and select salons, spas and institutes.

As a reward for incredible fundraising results, Aveda is celebrating our Earth Month accomplishments in India with the top salon and retail sales representatives whose locations most strongly supported Earth Month efforts. Highlights of this trip will include seeing first-hand a Greengrants water project solely funded through candle proceeds, visiting the “birthplace” of Aveda, whitewater rafting on the Ganges River, and much more.

The group arrives in Delhi tonight. We’d like to introduce the lucky people who will be experiencing this amazing journey in India.

Trip Winners:
Kristine Herzberg – Salon Development Partner, Omaha, NE
Christine Simon – Salon Development Partner, Hartford, CT
Emily Szymborski – Salon Development Partner, Madison, WI
Kirk Holmes – Salon Development Partner, San Diego, CA
Melissa McClellan – Experience Center Manager, Easton Town Center, OH
Sarah Belden – Experience Center Manager, Woodland Hills Mall, OK
Maryanne Schramm – District Manager, South Atlantic
Rochelle Kwiatkowski – District Manager, Midwest

Other Attendees:
Tom Petrillo – The Salon People, St. Petersburg, FL
Catherine Porter – Global Greengrants Fund, Board of Directors Sausalito, CA
David Hircock – Estee Lauder/Aveda
Marc Zollicoffer – Aveda Spa Education, Minneapolis MN
Saraswati Kavula – Videographer
Gigi Abbadie – Aveda Affinity Marketing, Minneapolis, MN
Katie Galloway – Aveda Earth and Community Care, Minneapolis, MN

Please join us on a virtual trip through northern India over the next week. We’ll post photos and highlights daily (or as technology allows!).

Bon voyage!

Weblinks of interest:
http://aveda.aveda.com/aboutaveda/earth_month.asp
http://www.greengrants.org
http://aveda.aveda.com/aboutaveda/green_ingredients.asp

The Aveda Team is on Its Way to India…

October 26, 2009

Stay tuned for updates from the Aveda Earth Month trip in India…

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