For the 49 visually-impaired families at Sakkimangalam village near Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Rtn S L Setumadava is god in human form. This good Samaritan from RC Madurai Star, RID 3000, has been providing all the basic necessities and utilities for the deprived families, whose breadwinners or all the members are sightless. “They came with an unusual request for residential houses in 2004; though an uphill task, I took it up as a challenge,” recalls Setumadava, the primary contact of Low-cost Shelter project. Till then, they were living in thatched houses and were exposed to external dangers.
He made several visits to the district collectorate for two years taking up the cause of these “marginalised families living on the edge of society which turns a blind eye to these sightless families,” he says. Free pattas (land title) were handed over to the beneficiaries in August 2006 by the then TN rural development minister M K Stalin, now CM, much to the relief of Setumadava and his team.
A daunting task
But then the real challenge has just begun. With the mobilisation of resources and funds, they were able to complete 30 houses costing ₹63 lakh in four phases from May 2009 to Dec 2016. The club sought the help of PDG P Gopalakrishnan from Karur to expedite the construction of remaining houses “as it is getting delayed for various reasons. With his guidance, we got a global grant of $120,000 (approx 87 lakh) that helped us to build another 15 houses at the project site,” explains Setumadava. Rotary Club of The Hills-Kellyville, RID 9685, Australia, is their global partner. All the 15 houses were bigger in size compared to the 30 houses built earlier as “the Australian PDG was very particular that visually-impaired couples must get a separate room,” he smiles.
Two houses share a common wall in these low-cost shelters which have carpet areas of 185–240 sqft. “So far, we had spent ₹1.5 crore for 15 houses. We will take up the construction of remaining four houses.” TN minister P Moorthy was surprised that “Rotary has done a job that is primarily the responsibility of the government.” He volunteered to donate ₹5 lakh for the construction of one of the remaining houses. District collector Aneesh Sekhar assured that roads, water and power connections will be given to the new houses at the earliest.
PDGs S Gopal, DRFC and PDG A Purushothaman felicitated the project team. One of the beneficiaries, Thai Poosam (60) was emotional while receiving the house key. “But for Ayyah (Sir in Tamil, with due respect to Setumadava), we would not have got this beautiful house, which is beyond our ability. He is our father,” he says. Christened Rotary Bright Homes, the low-cost houses have truly brought ‘light’ in the life of the visually-impaired families at this Madurai village.