A Catholic nun in India is being lauded for constructing 150 houses for the homeless in ten years.
Sr. Lizzy Chakkalakkal of Franciscan Missionaries of Mary congregation (FMM) accomplished the project with the support of Lily Paul, a lay teacher and generous benefactors.
"A society with no homeless people is the mission," says Sr. Lizzy, as newspapers from the Indian state of Kerala praised her achievements.
Sr. Lizzy, currently the principal of Our Lady's Convent Girls' School at Thoppumpady in Kochi, Kerala, told Radio Veritas Asia that the secular press was missing the point.
"The initiative is a part of education as integral development," says Sister Lizzy. "It is how the school imparts theoretical knowledge or values and a way of looking at the school as a catalyst and participant in social change."
"As an FMM educator, I deeply understand that transformation is the aim of education. It encompasses integral empowerment, family empowerment and moves out to empowerment of society. It is a wider vision, not just creating a hundred and fifty houses," the nun explained.
"For me, the main purpose of education is the integral and holistic development of every student," she said.
"We have a social transformation process through education. We are also educating our children to become socially committed persons."
"That we have built so many houses that are not that important. The real story is the good news of the generosity of hundreds of people that were moved by the Spirit to make this happen. Nowadays, when a bit of land is more precious than gold, and where there is so much of strife over real estate, there are men and women who have readily donated pieces of land for these houses," she said.
It all started in 2011. "I visited the home of one of my students who had just lost her father, and I was shocked at their living conditions. Her shack would have collapsed any moment. I wanted to help the girl's family. So, I spoke to some teachers and students. That was the beginning. All pooled in and we were able to provide the girl and her mother a decent home of their own," recalls Sr Lizzy.
That was the start of the House Challenge project in 2012.
Sr. Lizzy said that children living in such conditions develop an inferiority complex and lack self-esteem.
"So many of the homeless lack privacy in the shanties. Living conditions are stressful. Some lived in just a one-room with an alcoholic father who would come home abuse the mother and children," she said.
The House Challenge project involves the parents of the students and even their relatives to help out in building the houses.
People help in manual labour or technical processes irrespective of their religious affiliation or social status. Governments officials, philanthropists and former students offer monetary donations towards the success of the project. - Frank Krishner | RVA News