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Current Issue
September, 2019
Volume 45, Number 3
  
11 June 2013
Greg Kandra




Mary Mathai and her son inspect their new home as it nears completion. (photo: Sean Sprague)

In India, there is an ongoing effort underway to move the poorest from humble huts into real homes:

A “roof over your head” is considered one of life’s basic necessities, and yet for many it remains out of reach.

“During the heavy rains, water would seep through the roof and fall on my face while I slept,” said Aleyama Luka, a widow from Wayanad, a district in northern Kerala.

“I would have to sit up all night sheltering the children under an umbrella.”

Poverty is not uncommon in Wayanad, a tiny hill area known for its spices and coffee. Though much of the local economy is tied to agriculture, the overuse of chemical fertilizers and insecticides and painful government-led economic reforms have devastated district farmers. In the period of a year, from May 2006 to June 2007, 101 farmers — all of whom faced bankruptcy — reportedly took their own lives.

But thanks to the Malabar Social Service Society (MASSS), an agency of the Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Kottayam, efforts are under way to improve the lot of tens of thousands of people in need throughout northern Kerala: needy children, senior citizens, tenant farmers, unskilled laborers, fishermen, artisans, tribals anddalits, the so-called “untouchables” of India. …

Employing professional social workers, MASSS selects beneficiaries for its many programs from research gathered by an extensive network of field animators, as well as from recommendations made by priests of the archeparchy. MASSS’s housing initiative is part of its overall sustainable development strategy that also includes giving selected beneficiaries access to savings accounts, credit and affordable housing.

Mary Mathai borrowed 3,000 rupees (about $75) toward the cost of her new family home and pays only a nominal interest rate of 1.2 percent.

“Our old mud house just melted away in the rains ... and we used to get sick,” she said. “We sleep so much sounder now. The house changed our outlook toward life.”

Read more about Changing Lives in Northern Kerala from the November 2007 issue of ONE.



Tags: India Kerala Economic hardships Homes/housing