Everything happens for a reason.

I couldn’t tell you why I decided to make the journey to India. My wife has always wanted to go, but me… not so much. Sure I enjoy the occasional curry, am pretty comfortable with a warm climate and hey, I even watch cricket. But go to India? I wasn’t convinced it was for me. Maybe it’s for those ‘hippie’ backpacker types, or the admirable men and women whom feel called to live with and serve the poor and needy.

But this year, when my wife and I set out on our ‘year of adventure’ across the globe, she snuck India onto our itinerary. And I was okay with that. In my mind, our time in India would be ‘her thing’ – her chapter of our 2015 travel story.

I guess I was wrong. It’s turned into a life-changing adventure for us both.

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We’ve just finished a three-month stint in Kolkata volunteering at Sari Bari. We helped out with whatever was needed. Some days that looked like making tags, or helping the ladies pack the beautiful products they’ve made. Other days it looked like using our professional skills in the field of media and communications, writing and digital strategy. But every day contained beautiful new experiences, and every day made us smile for a different reason.

I love the time in the morning when the ladies meet together, singing songs and starting their day in contagious joy and freedom. I love the time in the middle of the day when all that can be heard is laughter, gossip and the scraping of metal plates on the smooth concrete floor as everyone meets for lunch. I love the time in the evening when we break for ridiculously sweet tea and biscuits, and the sun begins to set behind the old cinder block buildings of our neighborhood.

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My wife and I have travelled a lot. From the Eiffel Tower to the Statue of Liberty, from cathedrals in Rome to the mosques of Istanbul. But never before have we lived anywhere foreign. We’ve toured, but never planted our roots and lived as a local… that is, until our time in India’s City of Joy. Have I missed home sometimes? Sure. But as the dawn breaks each morning in Kolkata, so too has the feeling of being at home here. I’ve felt like I belong within the Sari Bari family.

Our time in Kolkata has been amazing. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. Being here at Sari Bari has value, and we’ve see this everyday in the shining faces of the women working in their freedom. It’s been fulfilling, rewarding, challenging, character-building, sweat-inducing, soul-uplifting work. And I’d do it all again.

Everything happens for a reason, and I’m glad this experience has happened to me.

Written by Jonathan Peck