PATHANAMTHITTA: Making the word guru meaningful, retired Zoology professor Sunil MS — interestingly named so by her father — is bringing light to the lives of the underprivileged. A winner of the Nari Shakti Puraskar, the 60-year-old from Pathanamthitta has so far helped construct over 200 houses for the poor in five districts, a journey that started from 2006. On Saturday, Agriculture Minister P Prasad handed over the key of the 204th house. Two more houses are ready while six others are nearing completion.
After the Covid outbreak, she has helped 42 homeless families get a roof over their heads. She also constructed 24 houses for those who lost their houses in the 2018 deluge.“As a child, I saw my parents helping the poor in our area, workers in our house and labourers in our fields,” Sunil said. Her father M M Samuel, who died a few months ago, was a bank manager. Mother Sosamma was a school teacher. Sunil joined as lecturer in the Zoology department of the Catholicate College in Pathanamthitta in 1995.
“When I became the programme officer of the National Service Scheme of the college for the second time, in 2006, the university started a programme to construct houses for the homeless. Though we announced that any student without a safe place to stay can approach us, nobody came forward. One of my students, Sajini, told me that a post graduate student, Asha, was in such a predicament,” she recalled.
“Asha and her family were living in a small shed made of plastic sheets. The door was the shawl of her salwar kameez, which she used to wear to college. We constructed a house for her spending Rs 1.19 lakh. We received a contribution of Rs 98,000 and the rest I found from my savings. Seeing Asha’s happiness, I decided I should do something for the homeless.”
Recounting the happiness of Kurumba, once a homeless cancer patient in Kodumon, Sunil said: “She always receives me with a smiling face. What else do we need in life?” Till date, she has completed 206 houses for the homeless in Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kollam, Kottayam and Ernakulam districts.
“My big dream is to make a village by constructing homes for the homeless,” she said. Attracted by the activities of the teacher, K P Jayalal, a native of Konni, too has joined the venture.“We are constructing safe and sound houses at a minimum cost. Currently, each 650 square feet house costs Rs 4 lakh. It consists of two bed rooms (one with an attached bathroom), and a kitchen and a hall. We monitor the construction and purchase materials directly, enabling us to save on cost and provide quality houses within 20 days,” she said. Their efforts are especially focused on widows with kids, and patients.
Every academic year, Sunil also gives study materials to 1,000 students from government schools. During the last lockdown, she gifted 13 laptops and three television sets to students. She was named Sunil as her father had thought his first child would be a boy, the teacher said.