India bound: Oak Park resident Gale Momenthy is taking a trip to India in September with the help of her employer, Whole Foods.J. GEIL/Photo Editor

It was Maya Angelou who inspired the essay that ended up winning one Oak Parker the opportunity to spread charity and goodwill all the way to India.

Angelou’s “Letter to My Daughter,” a collection of short essays on topics that span faith, life, and motherhood, inspired Gale Momenthy in many ways, but illuminated two important goals in her life, both of which focused on touching the lives of others.

The first is to try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. The second is to make sure to do something wonderful for humanity before you die.

“I’m grateful for a lot of the things I have in my life, but I have to share them,” Momenthy said. That simple realization launched a quest that will soon take her to India with the purpose of helping young orphans struggling for quality of life within a country suffering from a crisis of parentless children.

Momenthy works as an assistant team manager at Whole Foods Market in Lincoln Park, and in February, decided to submit her essay to be considered for a trip to India. The trip represents a partnership between two non-profit organizations. The first, Whole Planet Foundation, is an effort set forth by Whole Foods Market which provides microloans to entrepreneurs in third-world countries so that they may channel their ambition and creativity into sustainable careers.

The second, The Miracle Foundation, was established in 2000 to address the tragic conditions faced by parentless Indian children. “There was a crisis with orphans,” Momenthy said. The organization aimed to provide these children with some of the life’s basic necessities; food, health care, a nurturing home life, and education. “Basic rights that we take for granted,” Momenthy said.

The Whole Planet Foundation recently expanded their effort into India. When folks from The Miracle Foundation got wind of the move, they reached out to Whole Planet for a partnership.

“It happened that the two of them came together,” Momenthy said.

The essay ended up winning Momenthy a spot on the 15-day India excursion, from Sept. 10 through 25, but the total costs of the trip far exceed that amount. In all, Momenthy will have to fundraise some $4,500 to cover the costs of the flight, inoculations, and a travel visa. But she said the trip is well worth the price tag and effort.

Part of the journey will involve a visit to Sunrise Village, a collection of several houses, run by housemothers who care for the children. Housemothers make long term commitments to the homes, providing comfort and stability for the children that live there.

While at the village, Momenthy and fellow travelers will work to build the kids a playground. The work is expected to take a week, but the results will be far more lasting for the children.

Also during the trip, Momenthy will be visiting several recipients of microloans through the Whole Planet Foundation. The loans are generally given in small amounts of around $200 per year, but their impact on the beneficiaries can be great.

“They might buy a sewing machine,” she said. “They might buy a cow.” Either way, the payback rate is more than 95 percent, and the loans give the recipients the ability to generate income and eventually support themselves independently.

The group will also visit the Taj Mahal, which Momenthy said is appropriate for the altruistic theme of the mission. “It represents love,” she said of the landmark.

A number of different fundraisers, organized by Momenthy and made possible by her friends and family, will help foot the bill for her charitable excursion. The first was hosted in a friend’s home, and another was held on July 16 at Fitzgeralds Sidebar, where her ex-husband, Scott Momenthy, held a live recording session. During the intermission, Gale Momenthy had the opportunity to announce the details of her trip to everyone present, and ask for donations.

On July 24, Charlie Robinson, of Robinson Ribs on Madison, is hosting another fundraiser at the restaurant. And on Aug. 7, the proprietors of Sushi House on Lake have offered up the downstairs Dragon Room free of charge for a fundraising event. A number of local musicians will be present that night for live performances.

Her goals of more than $4,000 might seem daunting now, but she said she’s chipping away at is as best she can. “That’s my goal. It’s one step at a time,” Momenthy said.

Upon her return to the States, Momenthy said she hopes to act as an ambassador for the country and the people she encounters, and encourage others to help as much as they can. She doesn’t think it should be too difficult. “I think this community has a lot of love for children,” she said.

She also expects it to be a turning point for her. “It’s just the start of something really great in my life,” Momenthy said. “I can’t change a major problem…but if I can make a difference for one person, one woman or one child, then I’m accomplishing my goal.”

Join the discussion on social media!

4 replies on “From Oak Park to India, woman travels to meet orphans’ needs”