Pathanamthitta: Dr M S Sunil is a zoology professor at the Catholicate College in Kerala's small town of Pathanamthitta but what she does is much more than just teaching. It started a few years ago when she decided to build a home for one one of her students who lived in very shanty conditions. What started off as a solo effort has now grown into what many call the M S foundation.
"It was in 2006 that I saw Asha's plight. She was living in a shed on the roadside with her grandmother. First I felt scared about the security of a girl of her age, so I decided to build her a house. But then it did not stop there and when I came across others like her, it became a mission for me," Sunil said.
In Pathanamthitta, Shanta and her family lived in a makeshift tent and with the only one piece of land they had in her in-laws name. The panchayat was not ready to build them a house. The teacher, as they call her, talked to a couple of good samaritans and now they have a proper roof over their head.
The zoology professor can proudly name eighteen houses as her achievement. While a portion of her salary goes into this, Sunil does not depend on banks or other lending sources. Instead she looks for good samaritans to pitch in. Each of the houses she has built cost roughly between Rs 1 to 1.5 lakh and every one of them has been supervised by her.
She is not just building homes, but she is also rebuilding broken lives. 65-year-old Raju had resigned to a corner of his house after losing strength in his legs due to an illness. However, a specially-designed wheelchair given by Sunil gave him a new life. 197 other families are grateful to Sunil for this machine.
"I still remember the days without the wheelchair. I used to literally crawl to even go to the toilet. But now I have an urge to live. I think its God's grace that brought teacher to my house," Raju said.
But perhaps the toughest of all that she does is the time she takes out to spend with the tribals who live in the forests of Sabarimala a few miles away from the town. She helps them live a better life by providing new clothes, a few essentials, small bites, and books.
"It was in 2005 that in an awareness camp of the NSS I saw these people in the forest. The meeting was going on, people were speaking and these people who were half naked at that time seemed to be completely lost in a different world. We gave them food packets but they did not eat. There was fear and they used to run away initially. I said I will come here again and see how I can bridge the gap, that is how it started," said Sunil.
But the teacher who builds houses for others has not been able to make one for herself. She still stays at a rented apartment and says she never got the time to make her own home. For her, it really doesn't matter what she does as long as it helps the most needy of the lot.
"It is true that I get to do a lot of work but what I hold close to my heart is building home for the homeless. I think that is the most important thing for any human being. A place to live, a place to sleep peacefully. I simply cannot explain the satisfaction that I get when I complete a house for the poorest of the lot," said Sunil.