Quality of life, these three words have different meanings depending on whom you ask. For some, this may imply material wealth, how big one’s house is and the size of the LCD platinum TV that adorns the living room wall. For others, it may mean 3 meals in a day and a roof over one’s head. The answer may vary depending on one’s age, gender, geographic location, familial structure, culture, the list could go on and on. Regardless of all the aforementioned variables, one factor that is a constant across the line is the status of one’s health. No matter how you define the quality of life, without good health, all else seems futile.

One arm of Profugo’s three-pronged approach is Health and Wellness. Good health encompasses the mind, body, and soul. The three are interconnected. This past week we welcomed one of our volunteers from Philadelphia, Julie, to the village to conduct a couple health forums at the Profugo house. Through the hand of fate, Julie and Jenny met at their daughters’ dance class. Once they realized they had a bond, Julie being from Kerala and Jenny being the director of Profugo, based in Kerala, they got to talking. Julie has been a valuable volunteer (and mentor) for Profugo ever since. The generosity she showed in making a trip to Prashanthagiri was much appreciated by all.

The Health Forums are the first of many community events to be held at the Center of Development. Saturday morning began with Gilgy setting up all the chairs and tent in front of the Profugo House. Next a few women from the community arrived to begin preparing the tea and snacks for the participants. Meanwhile Isel and I transformed the PDI office into a Blood Pressure Screening Center. Slowly the ladies from the community began trickling in. Each woman dressed beautifully in her finest saree. Gold, green, blue, pink, it is like a paint box ascending our driveway.

The women take their seats and the forum begins. Julie introduces herself and all the ladies’ eyes are glued to her. They cover important topics such as blood pressure, stress management, diet, physical activity, etc. Julie shares some personal experiences of her own to create a personal bond with the women. Following the forum, all the women circle around Julie wanting to know where her family is from and other personal questions. It is very fulfilling after so much planning to see the project unfold successfully and to see two worlds merge, each the better for it. At the close of the workshop, Isel and I led a physical activity, in the form of dancing to the beats of M.I.A. To see the ladies shake their hips in their sarees, smiles on their faces, was a wonderful way to end. The women request to have a similar forum once a month.

The following day we hold the Youth Forum. About 50 children file in and take their seat.  The theme of the day is personal hygiene and dental maintenance. I am in awe of how well the children are behaved and how engaged they are in the discussion. Any one who has tried to get the attention of 50 kids and then attempt to teach them something knows what a challenge this can be. But, all eyes stayed glued to Julie taking in the information, how to properly brush your teeth, how to stop the spread of germs, preventative measures for getting sick, and so on. To close, the children divide into teams and answer a series of questions. All the children shout out the answers as we go through, showing off the knowledge they have just attained. We distribute toothbrushes and toothpaste to each child as they leave, smiles on their faces. They too request more workshops such as this one.

Profugo’s Health and Wellness Program has had a successful start thanks to all the hard work from the staff and interns in Philadelphia and the team here on the ground in Prashanthagiri and of course from Julie who bridged the two worlds so beautifully. I will close with a wise quote from none other than the Buddha himself, “To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”

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