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Sometimes travel is more than a dreamy, filtered photo. Sometimes a new land grips your heart in such a way that you’re reoriented around new perspectives and deeper conviction. Actress Shay Mitchell recently traveled to India with fair-trade company Raven + Lily, and we are honored to share some exclusive insight that such an experience gave her.

Read on below to find out what India revealed to Shay, as well as how she aims to put that knowledge to practical use.

Darling Magazine: How did you first get connected with Raven + Lily? What made their mission stand out to you?

Shay: I learned about Raven + Lily when a friend was wearing a necklace of theirs that I complimented. I was in awe when I heard the story of how that necklace had been made from melted down bullets and was employing HIV+ women in Ethiopia. I have always had a heart for supporting women through various causes and I thought this was a such a unique way of being able to help.

DM: How did you mentally / spiritually / physically prepare for such a trip? What anxieties or fears did you have?

Shay: I don’t think you can ever be prepared for a trip like this. I spent a lot of time researching India and talking to people who had been here and it was still more overwhelming than I expected. I knew that Raven + Lily was doing a great job planning the trip and that they had long-standing relationships in the communities where they support women, so while I knew it was going to be eye-opening, I felt safe and secure and excited to meet the women.

I have always had a heart for supporting women through various causes and I thought this was a such a unique way of being able to help.

DM: Did you have to adjust in any way — either arriving there or upon returning home?

Shay: I had to get used to the sensory overload. We spent time in the third largest city in the world during the trip, so the sounds, smells and sights are all heightened.

DM: What has the trip made you question or care about that you didn’t think to before? 

Shay: It made me question where I buy things from in general. Knowing that there are a lot of amazing fair trade companies like Raven + Lily and seeing firsthand the impact it can have on a person, a family and a community, this trip has made me committed to learning more about the companies in this space and to being diligent about shopping from them.

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DM: Many people head to countries like India in order to give or share in some way. What do you feel like the country has given or shared with you? 

Shay: The greatest thing I gained on my trip to India with Raven + Lily was the beautiful stories of the people I met along the way. I will never forget all of the special moments I shared talking, laughing, dancing, eating and just seeing the daily lives of people. The stories they told me about their lives and the smiles of the women and children I met will always be a rich, vivid memory I will carry with me.

DM: What do women in India have that we in America might need more of?

Shay: The women I met in India who are working for Raven + Lily are so full of joy. They don’t have or even need all of the material items that we do and their happiness comes from loving, serving and caring for one another. It’s so pure, simple and beautiful.

DM: Has your idea of beauty shifted or deepened since taking this trip? 

Shay: The beauty of these women absolutely radiates. Their strength, perseverance, self-confidence and love is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It transcends all traditional ideals for beauty.

The beauty of these women absolutely radiates. Their strength, perseverance, self-confidence and love is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

DM: What broke your heart the most while being there?

Shay: The extreme poverty that we experienced in India was heartbreaking. Seeing children digging through trash piles 6-feet tall; seeing a young girl not even as tall as my waist begging in the streets; seeing the millions of people who live their lives in slums. It’s all just really tough to stomach. But it’s also motivating. It makes me want to be a part of the solution.

DM: What encouraged your heart the most while being there?

Shay: Seeing the difference that Raven + Lily has made in small, remote villages that are so far from home for the founder, Kirsten Dickerson. She has worked so hard to help these women and it’s working. In a relatively short time, the company has grown from one small partnership to an organization supporting thousands of women in 13 regions around the world.

DM: How can the average girl get involved with some of the projects/needs you encountered? Would you recommend taking a trip like this?

Shay: A trip like this is great if you can do it – it will open your eyes and your heart and encourage you to be an active member of a global community that takes care of anyone who needs your help. But you don’t have to travel to help. The purchases you make every single day have the potential to impact a life, a family and a community. By being intentional about purchasing your clothes, jewelry and other goods from companies like Raven + Lily, you can start to change the world for the better every time you shop for something you need. It’s simple, fun and the best part is that it really is working!

If you want to learn more about Raven + Lily, shop Shay’s favorite picks for 15% using code WOMEN15 all week!

Images via Melinda DiMauro Photography

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