There are thousands of people in Kerala, for whom, a proper brick house is a luxury. They, out of helplessness, settle for small makeshift sheds made with tarpaulins or flex boards. Such fragile houses are mostly seen in the tribal settlements or in the high ranges. After last year’s destructive flood, the housing situation in the state has only worsened.
Many of them even lost their small makeshift houses, leaving them homeless and desperate. However, quite ironically, it is in Kerala that the most number of luxury houses were constructed in the last one year. It's in this context that the decision of Fr. Jijo Kurian, a priest at the Naadukaani Capuchin monastery, to provide proper housing facilities for people who do not have a roof over their heads, assumes significance.
“A small house for a family of two or three members could be built within 12 days, that too, in a meager two cents plot. It would cost only Rs 1.5 – 2 lakhs. We have already built 15 houses at various parts in Idukki district. Each house is sponsored by the Facebook communities or expatriate Keralites. We don’t receive the money directly; instead, we help connect the sponsors with families who require the house,” explains Fr. Jijo.
The house, in 220 sq ft, has a bedroom, bathroom, hall and a kitchen. Houses which are built in an area of 300 sq ft have two bedrooms. It is Fr. Jijo who draws the plan and designs each house. Masons in the locality help in the construction of these houses. Fiber cement boards are used for walls instead of cement to reduce the cost of construction. Old roofing tiles collected from different areas are washed and reused.
In the initial stage, financially backward people, especially old couples abandoned by their children, or young widowed or abandoned mothers were included in the project. However, in the next stage, more families began to approach and the project was developed to include houses with two bedrooms. The construction of these two-bedroom houses costs Rs 2 lakh. Most of the families who approach Fr. Jijo for assistance are the ones who do not receive any government aid or had been victims of red-tapism at the government offices. Fr. Jijo notes that such people would be happy to have safe and secured housing facilities than owning big houses.
Fr. Jijo is often seen wearing a shirt and a mundu and loves to indulge in organic farming at the monastery in his free time. This young priest does not limit himself to the weekly spiritual sermons but prefers to involve in many social causes by helping the needy.