Punganur is located in Chittoor district, about 120 kms from Bangalore. It is an important junction for travel to major cities across the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Surrounding the main town, which acts as a commercial center, are many small villages. Organic farming is a lucrative business in the region, with the processing of tamarind the major business venture. Poultry farms are also prominent. Muslims run most of the businesses, and villagers are employed for a very low daily wage.
The population is mainly Hindu and Muslim. High discrimination is practiced towards lower castes, who inhabit separate colonies within the same village and face restrictions in accessing temples, drinking water and other amenities. Only 70% of people in the villages are literate. Girls are often pulled from school by their parents after they reach puberty, due to security and transportation issues; they are also married to much older men, causing many girl to elope at a young age. Alcoholism is high amongst both women and men, leading to family dysfunction. Stress and poverty cause many children to be lured into trafficking by traffickers who promise them jobs and a better life in the city.
Potter’s Wheel sits on three acres donated by Charles and Joan Hartzell to continue their mission of serving the poor. The center seeks to provide a common place where people can socialize, learn and bond together, and decrease their vulnerability to human traffickers.
Thirteen staff outreach to 11 surrounding villages towards the following objectives and indicators of progress:
- health services to decrease mortality
- educational support to 400 children from low caste families
- social enterprise to reduce number of families living in poverty
- sports activities to instill sense of vibrancy and belonging
- change agents to grow joy, inter-dependency and vibrancy
The goal is to build communities that are characterized by high levels of trust, mutual respect, and the skills to sustain themselves and address their own issues. Through sports teams, afterschool programs, health awareness campaigns, and development of Change Agent groups, community members are building the skills and connections to protect one another and live more flourishing lives.