Wayanad, by name is not a new place for me. I have visited the place several times as a tourist and as a student for field work. But four months of experience here has taught be that I previously knew little of the real beauty, terrain and moreover the lives of people in this heavenly district of Kerala. Even though I was so excited to begin Profugo’s field fellowship since I have a strong affinity to work with people at the community level, I was a bit scared too as this was my first professional job experience. In time, this fear of stepping out of my comfort zone disappeared with the support of the wonderful souls here at the Profugo Center of Development, Valad. I have to say, I feel truly blessed to have this team as my first group of colleagues and Jenny and Ashwin involved in leadership. Within a few days, I felt like I had found my second family here which not only consisted of the staff, but also all of the Profugo community members. The bond, warmth and care that the team members here have with the community was also extended to me and I feel that I was happily welcomed. This love and care show nothing but the effective and quality heart work that Profugo has done over the last years, since 2012. Of course, one might think that it must have been easy for a native language speaker to connect with people here, but people here taught me that no language is required to care for a fellow human being with a good intention, through their love, respect and care for one of my colleagues who is not a Malayalam speaker.
Time spent as a Profugo field fellow at Valad has been truly magical and a golden learning opportunity in umpteen number of ways for me. Professionally, I have strengthened my field work skills, grown in networking and interpersonal skills, and learned to fearlessly but cautiously try new kinds of work. Also, I’m really impressed by the ease and transparency of communication among the team members and with the community. Personally, it gave me so many insights. I have come across many brave women, who work hard for their families. Women who are so beautiful and always have a smile on their face despite all kinds of hardships in their life, who love their family and friends infinitely and who are the strongest pillars for the sustainability of this community. It is sad when these women don’t realize their talent and power, but I can see that Profugo is contributing to lift up the women and the needy community members through sustainable programs focused on agriculture, financial security, youth development and tailoring, realizing the significance of true development and empowerment of the community. I have seen some wonderful men who whole-heartedly support their women to follow their interests, but I can see that men still have a way to go in supporting women fully.
Yes, Valad is a priceless beautiful village. The scenery is the most serene. The ambience here is calm, quiet and peaceful. People here are beautiful too. They do agriculture, animal husbandry and are always ready to work hard. And yes, Profugo has done a remarkable job in developing the community through different programs such as organic kitchen garden programme, poultry rearing program, youth development programme, tailoring business units etc. But if you ask me who the true heroes are, it takes me no time to answer that. The true heroes are the beautiful women of all ages here, the women work day and night to sustain their family financially and emotionally, the women here who are the most resilient to all sorts of domestic and social abuses, the women who always greet you with smile on their face and love in their heart, despite being weighed down by all these misfortunes. These heroes have shown me that you can find happiness and peace in your life no matter your circumstances, if you are courageous to face (and overcome) any hardships in your life.
Wherever life takes me, I will always remember at least three lessons from here: 1) you can connect deeply as friends even when your backgrounds and cultures are different, 2) a successful office need not have a hierarchy, 3) you can start doing things without everything being perfect and things will eventually fall into place, and most importantly 4) remember the smiles on the beautiful faces amidst the most green and heavenly mountains here! Next time I face any obstacles in my life, I’m sure the lessons learned here will inspire me to face them with courage. As Profugo strives our best to develop the community here in the most sustainable way, I’m sure that one day, Valad will be even more beautiful with happy community members. I cannot wait to do more and grow more with Profugo.