I recently had the opportunity to meet Rocky Braat, the subject of an amazing documentary called “Blood Brother,” winner of both the Audience and Grand Jury Prize at Sundance 2013. The film tells the story of a disillusioned young American who goes to India to find meaning in his life and finds it at an HIV AIDS hostel in rural India. Before you go on, check out this trailer for context:
Rocky currently lives in a rural village near the shelter featured in the film. I accompanied an SUV-load of items donated by local Americans to Rocky and his village, just a couple of hours south of Chennai. Here we are getting ready to head out.
We headed into Saturday afternoon traffic thinking this would be a 1.5 hour one-way, but nearly 3 hours later, we were still fighting traffic. At a certain point, our non-English speaking driver appeared to be lost, but we knew we were close when we stopped at this rail crossing, which features prominently in the film.
Once we linked up with Rocky at his village, it was smooth sailing.
After unloading the donations, we had a walk through the village. Everywhere we went, Rocky was followed by children. They saw my camera, and everyone wanted their picture taken. This was not limited to the kids – adults too wanted some of the action. Here are some of the best shots.
In the film, “Blood Brother,” Rocky’s work at a nearby orphanage/shelter for women and children suffering from AIDS is highlighted. We didn’t visit that shelter; we just visited the local village where Rocky teaches English, computers, and other subjects, and it’s the kids in the village you are seeing in these pictures. But Rocky told me about a great project he and the NGO he is forming are working on. You see, when the boys and girls in the shelter reach a certain age, by Indian law they can no longer stay in the mixed shelter. That age is 16 for boys and 18 for girls.
When the HIV/AIDS shelter was first established, there was little anyone could do for its residents – few drugs, few treatments were available, and it was more about hospice than anything else. Now these kids are surviving with the help of new drugs and treatments available in India. When they “age out” of the shelter, they need a place to go, a way to earn a living. And that’s where Rocky’s latest project comes in.
He’s building a center for these kids to do things like photography, other jobs and vocations they can do which don’t require them to be on their feet for 8, 10 or more hours a day. So we discussed ways we might be able to help out, and we’ll be checking in in the future to see how things are going. He’ll be needing lots of help to keep this project moving.
After we looked at that project, we headed back to his place and got to see the reactions of some of the local village kids as they received their share of the donations. See for yourself:
If you’d like to learn more about ways to help Rocky and some of southern India’s most vulnerable kids, you can visit the Blood Brother (that’s the name of the film) website here.
Here are a few more scenes from the village.