Sister Lizzy Chakkalakkal is the principal of Our Lady’s Convent Girls Higher Secondary School in Thoppumpady, Kerala.
Five years ago, she discovered that one of her students was homeless. This prompted her and some of the students to take up the ‘House Challenge Project,’ through which they raised money and constructed a house for the child and her family.
An inspired Sister Lizzy decided to continue with the initiative. Since then, several homes—99 to be exact—have been constructed for the poor and homeless by the House Challenge Project for free.
The money for construction is raised through contributions from students, parents, teachers as well as anyone who is willing to donate.
Once the required amount is collected, the school facilitates the construction by bringing in workers and other parties till the time the house is ready for its occupants.
“When we think of service for the society and particularly, the homeless, most of us assume that all they need is food and clothes. While these are indeed basic necessities, a roof over one’s head is equally important. Through these homes, we are providing them security but more than that, the hope and will to build a better life,” says Sister Lizzy to The Better India.
In a week from now, the House Challenge project will hit a significant landmark—they will finish constructing their 100th house and hand over its keys to a homeless family from Chellanam. The kids are students at the school.
“While the primary objective of this initiative was to end homelessness in Kochi, I also wanted to inculcate a culture of sharing in the students. And what could be a better way to teach students about the joy of giving than to involve them in the process,” says Sister Lizzy.
Students, teachers as well as the management staff of the school have played a significant role in contributing money for the homes that have been constructed.
Explaining this further, Sister Lily says, “During celebratory occasions like their birthdays, these children have voluntarily come forward to donate money, and that truly helped this initiative gain momentum. Initially, only students and staff were helping to raise funds, but, as word spread, people from all walks of life joined in.”
The project is not limited to the families of students from the school; it has also built homes for the differently-abled and widowed mothers.
“In today’s date and time, constructing a simple house doesn’t amount to much, and our efforts have proven that. By teaching children, we are striving to take forward the message that together, we can end homelessness,” shares Sister Lizzy.
The school takes community engagement very seriously.
Last year when floods ravaged the state, it adopted close to 150 families to help them get back on their feet. Additionally, a total of 12 fully-constructed houses were handed over to families from Kuttanad as well as flood-hit villages from Ernakulam district.
To know more about the House Challenge Project or track their progress, you can follow Sister Lizzy on Facebook here.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)