After their last distribution to a nursing home, Food for Life volunteers, Juliana Castaneda (Jaggy) and Hema Kanti decided to create a slightly larger event. The response they got from the local people was overwhelming.
January 15, 2014 , Bogota, Colombia — “Up until early 2013, I had been doing this free food distribution all by myself for the last 8 years,” explains Juliana. “Hema Kanti has been a tremendous help and this most recent event just blew us both away!”
Juliana created an event on Facebook and to her surprise more than 40 people offered to help within a few hours of it being posted. “At first I thought this was not something I should take seriously; social media can sometimes create false hope, but these people really took it seriously and I started getting messages asking me what needed to be done.”
Juliana immediately began delegating tasks, and each task was not only carried out perfectly, but she found the volunteers actually improving on them. All the volunteers had a specific service and they relished it. “I had never seen so much enthusiasm in my country when I had tried to make food distribution before. Times are changing!” she said.
“Because we were going to a poor children’s home, volunteers decided to bring notebooks, pencils, and everything the kids needed to help in their education. Other volunteers printed flyers to speak to the kids about a healthy diet, and our talented artist volunteer Juan Faundez from Chile, shared his amazing graphics about caring for animals and having respect and love for all living beings,” she explained.
At 8am, all the volunteers assembled at the local vegan kitchen, “Comida Rapida Vegana,” owned by one of the volunteers Niyi Gil. Juliana said she learned a powerful lesson that morning: “I learned what a loving heart looks like — a heart that is willing to serve unconditionally,” she said. “The question I most heard that morning was: ‘What else can we do?’ The volunteers were thirsty for something to do.”Volunteers eagerly finished what they were doing and looked for more. On top of this, everyone brought a donation of some sort,” she said with tears.
“We had an expert chef to lead the other kitchen staff; we had a professional photographer; we had other volunteers packing school supplies for children, and we had fresh vegan donuts sent by master pastry chef, Nathalie Murcia, owner of “Tomates Verdes Fritos.” Before loading the food onto the van, Julian did a food yoga offering meditation so that the food would be nourishing for the children’s body, mind and spirit.
One volunteer offered their van to transport the food and some volunteers, while the other volunteers took public transport to the children’s home. “When we arrived we were greeted with many hugs,” said Juliana. The children were organised and then Juliana and other volunteers gave a talk about eating a healthy diet, veganism, and understanding the spiritual equality of animals and humans. “The children understood everything so easily,” she said with joy. “They then wanted to know a little bit about our lives, so each volunteer talked about their profession and interests.” The subject of veganism intrigued the children, so they asked the volunteers how and when they decided to eat like that. The children were very excited to learn that many of the volunteers had a long history of veganism.
Then the youngest volunteer, Juliana’s sister Dana (aged 15), decided to speak at the request of the children. She explained her decision not to eat animals and how she managed this choice with her friends and family. “The most difficult challenge was with my father,” said Dana. “He is not a vegetarian, but I was strong, and over time, I showed him that being vegetarian did not adversely affect my health.”
For the children it was very gratifying to hear such things from a young person like Dana.
After the dinner was served, the children waited anxiously for the dessert — fresh chocolate donuts! Many of the children had never had a donut and they devoured them in seconds. In total, 78 vegan meals were served that included 4 delicious preparations: stir fried vegetables, atollado rice, chicharrones (soy chips), chocolate donuts and fresh fruit juices.
After the food was served the volunteers received hugs and kisses from the children, which filled their hearts with love and a strong desire to continue this service.
Juliana wishes to sincerely thank all twenty volunteers. “All of you are beautiful. In each heart I see someone who truly wants to serve; we are all born to serve and that is what brings us real joy. We must never forget this. Only when we experience the pleasure of unconditional service to another living being can we understand what we really want in life. That’s what we’re here for,” she explained.
Based on a report by: Juliana Castaneda (Jaggy)
NOTE: The free meals were sponsored by Pragna and Hitesh Patel from Washington DC, through their generous donation to Food for Life Global.
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