November 12 - November 20, 2016

We were lucky enough to be a part of TOMS in its early years. Nearly two and a half years after we left, we were blessed enough to participate in a TOMS giving trip in India with two incredible partners, Karuna Trust and Aravind. For more information on each organization please click on the links. Both are amazing organizations in different ways.

Karuna Trust is making significant progress in "Reaching the Unreachable", reaching out to those who are in the remote and inaccessible areas, hilly and tribal regions, Naxalite and Insurgency areas with poor roads, no phone and electrical connectivity, where both public and private health services have hardly reached the poor. They have made a difference by creating replicable models for providing healthcare and education to those in need. Our first days of the trip were spent with the volunteers that further Karuna Trust's vision every day.

Our first day was spent in Bangalore and getting the whole team introduced to India and its culture in a whirlwind tour. After visiting some temples, a fort, and the local fresh flower market we rested in preparation for the main reason we were in India, to see what Karuna Trust was all about first hand.

Giving trips are easily one of the most exciting things an employee at TOMS gets to participate in. Not many words are needed, I think the photos do most of the talking, but nothing replaces the experience. I will say one thing are kids no matter where you meet them and they love to smile and play. I guess they just love being kids. Nothing wrong with that. And you'll probably be able to tell that they brought out the kids in all of us.

Aravind requested that we not post photos including their patients, so sorry for that missing piece here. Aravind is another incredible organization based in southern India. The organization is responsible for single handedly developing the affordable interocular lens that is used in cataract surgeries around the world today. As our friend Hajime pointed out, Aravind is actually the original One For One company, with a key difference of their hospital being non-profit. Their set of hospitals consists of a free hospital and a paying hospital. Depending on the post-surgery accommodations you want, you can choose to either pay of have your surgery subsidized. At the end of the day, all the surgeries are done by the same doctors in the same facilities, the main difference is the post-surgery accommodations. Surprisingly, but maybe not too surprising, they gained inspiration for their assembly line like surgery setup from McDonald's. Seeing all of their efficiency in person was simply mind-blowing.

Before parting ways, we made one last stop at the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai.The temple forms the heart and life line of the 2,500 year old city and is a significant symbol for the Tamil people. No visit is complete without a blessing from the resident elephant.

So after all the worry/anxiety/anticipation of going to India, we've both walked away from this short introduction to India very inspired and with a soft spot in our hearts for the country and all the people we met. Everyone we met could only be described as selfless and genuinely good people. And the food was just incredible. We didn't know much about Indian food prior to the trip, but we tried everything that was served to us and it was all amazing.

Next stop, Myanmar with Hajime and Maily. We just can't get away from these two I guess.