Dr Sunil is a home maker, literally!
Today, she has constructed 15 houses for the needy, transformed the lives of tribes from Sabarimala and started her own literacy campaign for the orphans, all by herself. Rediff.com's Arun Lakshman catches up with Pathanamthitta's 'home maker'.
It was a regular interaction with a student, but little did Dr M S Sunil, a zoology professor from Catholicate College, Pathanamthitta know that it would change her life and that of many others forever.
During a chat with a post graduation student in April 2006, Dr Sunil realised that he came from poor family and lived in extremely poor conditions -- a shanty with no proper roof. His plight moved the professor and she decided to construct a house for him. But that just did not seem enough. It prompted her to reach out the underprivileged in and around Pathanamthitta, a town in Kerala. And there was no looking back.
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Image: Dr Sunil chats with a poor woman from Pathanamthitta
'I shell out my salary to meet construction cost'
Over the past five years, the professor has provided houses to 14 families. In the next few days, Dr Sunil will hand over the keys of the fifteenth house (with two bedrooms, a small kitchen and bathroom) to yet another needy family.
"I have been doing this alone. Each house costs around Rs 1 lakh, but some the cost goes a little beyond that. There are a few that come forward to support the cause, but sometimes it's not enough. I make up for the remainder amount from my pocket," said Dr Sunil, who was initiated into the social field through the National Service Scheme.
Image: The houses constructed by Dr Sunil have two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom
'I am just doing my duty towards society'
"I do get support from several quarters. Prasad, a student of our college has provided funds for six of 15 houses, which I have constructed. There are people who are willing to contribute, but they want to know whether the person who is running the show is genuine or not," Dr Sunil added.
Image: Dr Sunil assures a poor woman that she will get the help required
Dr Sunil provides a helping hand to labourers
And her work is not restricted to funding the houses alone. Often she goes to the construction site and provides a helping hand to labourers to speed up the work.
So how does the professor zero in on these families? "I personally visit the poor and see if they are actually in need of a house or are providing false data. In almost cases those who approach me are genuinely in need of houses," she said.
Image: Dr Sunil at the construction site of one of the houses
With 17 libraries, Pathanamthitta's literacy movement gaining momentum
"If any building can be converted to a library I provide books. I have provided 700 books to each of these libraries," she said.
In this initiative, she has received support from Ravi DC of DC books, one of the leading publishing houses of Kerala. "Ravi DC has provided some very good books to the library. Kerala's leading newspapers Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi have also supported the cause. And it's indeed a noble gesture," she said.
The professor also provided books to various orphanages in and around Pathanamthitta district. She often visits orphan students and distributes notebooks and educational kits.
Image: Dr Sunil distributes books among school children
Dr Sunil transformed lives of 28 tribes
Dr Sunil has also transformed the lives of around 28 scheduled tribes, who were living in dense forest areas near the hill shrine Sabarimala. Malnourished when she first reached out to them six years ago, they are now a healthy lot.
"When I reached the colony, the tribes looked helpless. They did not have proper food or clothing; they lived in unhygienic conditions. For the past six years, I have worked with them and they are now showing signs of improvement. They have uplifted themselves," she said.
Image: Dr Sunil distributes informs in schools