Mumbai and Bangalore, India
Career goal: Attend medical school and specialize in infectious diseases in developing countries.
Internship outline: Alexandra worked on the Story of a Girl Project, an international HIV advocacy campaign by Visual Epidemiology. After preparation in New Haven, she traveled to India for six weeks to establish partnerships with NGOs and film personal stories of women and girls living with HIV. Participating women were of varying backgrounds, including sex workers, orphans, expectant mothers and the poor. The Project seeks to establish a human connection by showing footage about their families, hobbies and their passions and demonstrating positive outcomes by showing what women are capable of with access to proper medication and services. In addition to collecting personal stories, the Project also creates short narrative films following the life of a girl born HIV positive until the birth of her own HIV negative child.
Value of experience: The Story of a Girl Project really put me in touch with the people behind the numbers discussed in classes and on a broader policy level. Women invited me into their homes to show and talk about how far they had come since learning their HIV status and accessing treatment, demonstrating the importance of each individual. I also learned how to navigate the often-difficult politics of NGO partnerships.
Best moment/experience: I had the chance to interview young girls (12 to 15 years old) about their hobbies and their dreams. Many were resisting family pressure to get married and were determined to finish their education and become economically self-sufficient. They wanted to share their inspiring stories to empower other girls around the world to assert themselves. I have never met a stronger group of young women.
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- Children congregate to watch activities on the set of the Indian episode of the HIV advocacy film “Story of a Girl.” Often, scores of people gathered around to observe the activities, and many of the children participated as extras in the film.
- A five-year-old actress poses with the film’s clapboard. She plays the role of Niti, who is born HIV-positive and orphaned at a young age. The film follows her life until she gives birth to her own HIV-negative child.
- The film was shot in the JP Nagar slums of Bangalore. This overhead shot includes the sets for a chase scene. Included in the picture are members of the production team as they plan the next shots.
- The “Story of a Girl” project was created by Jonathan Smith, M.P.H. ’10. He and his brother, Alan, are shooting eight of these films in different countries around the world, portraying the lives of women living with HIV and what is possible with proper access to HIV treatment.
- Several scenes of the film were shot at the DESIRE Society orphanage for HIV infected and affected children in Bangalore, such as this lunchtime scene.
- Lexy partnered with several nongovernmental organizations in Mumbai, including Social Activities Integration, to address the health needs of sex workers and homosexual men. Pictured here is the community outreach van parked in a brothel area. People came for basic medical treatment, condoms and HIV tests.
- The first scene shot for this film shows actress Bumika perched in the tree after stealing a loaf of bread. To the left, a cameraman with 8th Wonder Production, known for its Academy Award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, operates the first camera. Below, director Sharat Raju of NBC Universal sets up the scene.
- Children in the neighborhoods where film is done love to pose for pictures. This little girl poked her head out to say “hello” and her parents requested that her picture to be taken.
- A sex worker (in blue) returns from her visit to the community health van. She participated in the “Story of a Girl,” sharing her personal story about how access to antiretrovirals allows her to live her life and support her children.
- Lexy filmed several personal stories of young girls at DESIRE, in both Bangalore and Mumbai. By receiving proper care and medication for HIV, these girls are able to continue their studies and pursue their desired professions of teachers, engineers, and lawyers.