Everything about this 57-year-old retired zoology professor is unique, but what stands out is her compassion for the deprived. In 11 years, she has built homes for 78 people in a sterling example of philanthropy in a region where extravagant homes have become a norm.
Her altruism started back in 2006 when she noticed one of her students was living in an unsafe home. She decided to rectify that. There was no stopping her after that as she went on to build 77 homes in her home district of Pathanamthitta, and one in nearby Kollam district.
Starting with her name, M.S. Sunil, a name not associated with a woman, she is treading a different path.
In 2006, it came to my notice that one of my students was living a tough life in an unsafe home. I was then part of the National Service Scheme (which focused on development of a student's personality through community service). We decided to build a home for the student. We collected Rs 60,000 for it and a brand new home was completed, says Sunil.
After that, she decided she would not continue with a collection drive as it was cumbersome and decided to look for a single sponsor. Soon, however, cash-rich people started approaching her and gave her money to build shelters for the homeless. She completed the 78th house last month.
After my retirement from the college last year, I am fully involved in my passion. At the moment, work is going on for eight homes, of which six are almost complete, Sunil said.
Explaining the process of selecting beneficiaries, she said now that she has been building homes for close to 12 years, many poor people approach her with requests to help them.
The first thing I look into is if the needy person comes from a family which has women. I then make my own enquiries about the family and if they are in need of a home. Of the 78 homes that I have completed, land was bought for just two. In all the other cases, either the beneficiary had land or, in some cases, the local village councils gave the land, Sunil said.
As for the funds required, she said while the first home cost around Rs 60,000, the last one that was handed over cost Rs 2.50 lakh.
Several people contact me and give me the money. As a rule, I do not involve more than one person contributing to a single home. But there are times when people call me and say they can afford only so much. If I were to quantify the amount of my own money that I have invested, I will get a heart attack -- as I put in my money to complete a house if there is a shortage, Sunil says, rather modestly.
Of the six new homes that are now almost complete, four have been sponsored by a US-based family. On the time required to complete a home, she said the least amount time from start to finish she has taken is 22 days, while it generally takes around 50 days. The size of the home varies from around 300 sq feet to 450 sq ft. It will have a minimum of two rooms and the roof is made of galvanised sheets.
Sunil says she takes up work only in and around her home district as it ensures her presence on almost all days when the work begins. While in college, I used to rush to the site after 3.30 pm. Now that I am retired, I have all the time to pursue my passion, said Sunil.
Incidentally, her businessman husband chipped in and funded one home.
Sunil says her passion would not have become a reality but for the generous sponsors, who are mostly working abroad. Now, she is confident she will be able to facilitate many more homes. Already, there are a dozen homeless families waiting for her and she, in turn, is waiting for sponsors.
With inputs from IANS