Prashanthagiri

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Prashanthagiri, India is the small village that Profugo has centered their campaign for human development in.  The village is home to roughly 40 families that make their livings farming (banana’s, rice, coconuts, tea, coffee, and other fruits/nuts/vegetables), driving rickshaws, and doing other odd jobs.  The residents of the community have built their own homes on land that was separated and distributed by the government a few decades ago after being seized to lesson the economic struggles of many citizens.

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First day on the set.  Rather, first day seeing the beauty of Kerala and Prashanthagiri – a day that I was sure would bring plenty of new experiences, people to meet, and things to see.

As Production Manager, one of my responsibilities is to run around in the morning and make sure everyone is up a half hour before Call Time.  I woke up a little early to grab a quick shower, then made my way around the hotel making sure everyone was awake.  Even though most people only had a handful of hours, we were all very excited to be able to see Prashanthagiri for the first time!
Tyler met us in the lobby of the hotel, and we made our way to the restaurant a building over for a breakfast of vegetable curry and appam (essentially pancakes or a thin starchy piece of bread) a traditional Indian breakfast. Everyone piled in the van and made the ~40 minute trek to the village.

Riding through the windy, bumpy, and hilly roads of Wayanad, it’s easy to appreciate the simplicity of American roads.  Not all of the roads are paved here, let alone smooth, but there’s something nice about that.  The view on either side of the road is of patty fields, banana trees, and farms around every bend.
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Emily and Isel (the two other Field Fellows) were waiting at the Profugo house to welcome us.  We took a few minutes to get settled and see the home, and learn about the tailoring program.  We took a quick hike up behind the house to get an idea about the land they were living on – it was barely scratching the surface of the area, but it was so amazing to see.  Tea farms carved into the side of hills, a church on top of the hill, and small homes scattered amongst the trees – in general, so much GREEN!  It’s hard to find an area around Villanova that is just green for as far as you can see.

Since today was a Hindu holiday, the women of the tailoring program would not be working, and the kids would not be going to school.  This gave us an opportunity to have a meeting with members of Profugo and the tailoring program to give them an idea of what our mission was and what we’d be doing for the next two weeks (with the help of Aneesh, our translator and a local Profugo Program Manager).  Our ideas were well received by the women of the community and the Field Fellows, so it was time to get the footage rolling.

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 Aneesh (our translator and Profugo staff)

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Some of my fellow students and field fellows

With plenty of opportunities to meet with members of the community due to this holiday, we’d have a full day of interviews. The first interview was almost like a crash course in finding a location, setting up the cameras, lights, and audio. It was also the first time Nash (our Interviewer) would have opportunity to open up the hearts and minds of the residents of Prashanthagiri.  The first two women were be members of Tailoring Program that Profugo has set up.  They were brought to our attention from Profugo as women would were not only role models for the community, but have lived a life of perseverance.
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The first setting was at a home that was about halfway up a central hill in the community.  The house had been built by Sujayah, and she had picked a location with a picturesque view.  The team did a great job of setting up and working together for the first time.

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Sujayah’s son loved snapping photos with the field fellow’s camera.

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The next interview brought us to the house of Savitri.  Savitri is a key member of the tailoring program that Profugo had started.  She is a widow that is considered a role model to many other women in the community.  Her house is very well kept and her grandchildren can be seen running around on her property and the community.  Even with little spoken English, she joked around with us before being interviewed.

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The kids were happy to learn the macarena!

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Savitri rocking a pair of sunglasses

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With two very good interviews in the books, we went to interview the first man of the community.  Abraham is another prominent member of the community and serves to reverse many of the stereotypical ‘poisons’ that plague the Indian culture.  Having been a victim of an abusive, alcoholic father, Abraham wants to ensure that he is able to provide his family with a wholesome, loving lifestyle.  His interview was filled with a sense of ‘hope’ for those around him, which was promising to hear.

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Abraham

We tried to run up the hill to catch a sunset, but unfortunately missed the view.  Either way, we saw a new side of the village, which is always exciting!

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At dinner, there was a long tabled filled with younger girls.  They all turned around and stared at us.  Seeing a group of white, blonde, American students was a bit of spectacle for them.  They all pulled out their cameras and asked for photos (which the girls were happy to do)! These scenarios are living proof of our privilege.  It’s not very often that you’d see a bunch of American’s converge on a group of foreigners asking for photos.

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Meg and her blonde hair were the highlight for the younger girls (iPhone)

Day one in the books!

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