But besides his everyday journeys as a taxi driver, Reji has been taking time off to help the underprivileged in the Travancore area for the past 25 years.
“I’m not a rich man, but the wealth that I possess is the people around me,” says Reji Thoppileth, 63, a taxi driver.
Reji is not your ordinary taxi driver but a man whose philanthropic heart has helped scores of lives by providing them with the necessities of life — a roof, food and medical aid.
In the past 25 years, he has helped build 27 houses for the underprivileged alongside providing funds for education and healthcare to families who are struggling to make ends meet.
Although Regi himself does not come from an affluent background, he has been working for the upliftment of the underprivileged by networking with well-wishers in India and abroad.
How A Taxi Driver Became A Saviour For Many
Varghese Joseph Thompilethu, better known as Regi, hails from Cheriyanad in Chengannur, Kerala and has been a taxi driver since he graduated from school.
“I started driving private vehicles and later bought a car. I had to sell it off to meet our financial needs and continued driving vehicles for others,” says Reji.
Besides ferrying people to their destinations, Reji has been taking time off to help underprivileged families in the Travancore area for the past 25 years.
“During my taxi trips, I come across several houses that are half-built or are on the verge of falling apart. So in my free time, I visit these houses to understand a little bit more about their condition, and I do my best to help them out,” he says.
Along with his contributions, Reji collects funds from others to build these houses and takes care of finding labourers and sourcing raw materials for the construction.
“The first house that I helped construct was for Rajendran’s family. He was a daily wage labourer and had been living in a hut for more than 35 years along with his wife and two daughters. One of his daughters was paralysed from her waist down, and most of Rajendran’s savings had gone into her treatment,” Reji informs us.
“I started approaching non-profit organisations and institutions to collect money. Although I was able to raise a significant amount, it was not enough to build a house. That’s when Sudeesh Valiaveedan, the owner of a famous clothing shop in my town, approached me and said that he would sponsor everything needed for the construction. I was taken aback by the offer, but at the same time, I realised that these small efforts can change somebody’s life,” he adds.
Since then, Regi has helped build 27 houses for families in Chengannur, Harippad, Pallipad and Kottayam.
Finding Organ Donors & Saving Lives
“When people saw the kind of work I was doing, they started approaching me with stories of different families in dire need of help. One such instance led me to Sowmya, a 16-year-old girl whose kidneys were failing. She didn’t have enough money for a transplant and couldn’t find a donor as well,” says Reji.
Soumya’s parents had been struggling to raise funds for her dialysis sessions, and a transplant operation was way beyond their resources.
But Regi’s determination helped collect money from over 12 schools in the locality and raised Rs 6,20,000 Lakh for the operation.
“I coordinated with the team at the Kottayam Medical College as well, and we were able to find a donor in an accident case that matched Sowmya’s blood group – which saved her life,” he adds.
Today, Sowmya is a civil engineer who works with the Water Authority department in Harippad, Kerala.
“To us, Regi is not just a taxi driver; he’s more of a bridge to several struggling people in the nearby villages. He has invested his precious time and effort into the welfare of the people here and not once has he utilised the money that he collected for his benefit. All the money that he raised is accounted for. And that’s a quality that’s very rare to see in individuals nowadays,” says Advocate Aby Kuruvilla, who has been an active participant in Regi’s welfare activities.
Regi recalled another incident from back in 2008 when he helped build a house for his neighbour Omana, who lived with her brother and was struggling financially.
“After the house was built, we held a small ceremony with the other villagers to hand over the key to her. We also observed the custom of boiling rice in the new kitchen. So when we asked to bring out the rice, she teared up and said that they had not been able to afford groceries that month. This incident was heartbreaking for all the villagers, and I decided to organise a food distribution drive,” Regi explains.
Regi has diligently documented all the money he receives from well-wishers and sends them copies of bills and invoices once the money is spent.
“I am constantly in touch with all the families that I have helped out, and it’s truly amazing to see how they’ve been able to grow over the years and build a living for themselves. I firmly believe that it’s their blessings that keep my family and me going every day,” he says.
“My wife Elizabeth, a homemaker and son Sebastian, a mobile technician, have been supportive throughout the years in my journey,” he adds.
It should come as no surprise that amidst the lockdown, Regi has been providing Rs. 5,000 per month to four families through funds he has received from an organisation in Brunei.
His mission continues ever stronger, even in these tough times.
You can help Regi by donating to this account:
Account Holder: Thompileth Varghese Joseph
Account Number: 0251053000008640
IFSC Code: SIBL0000261
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)