keep India smiling
Inspiring teacher Lincy George and her husband Sebastian, a couple residing in Kerala, have dedicated several years to give their students, most of whom come from under-resourced backgrounds, a permanent home to live in.
Partially losing her eyesight never dimmed Lincy George’s spark within. A teacher at the Government Tribal Higher Secondary School in Murikkattukudy, Idukki, she has been working selflessly for the past several years to uplift the lives of her under-resourced students. As a result of her efforts, around six houses have been built for students in her school.
“Just providing them education won’t be enough if they don’t have a place to sleep and live safely,” Lincy tells The Better India.
Most of the students at the school belong to tribal communities and come from economically poor backgrounds. Some families, she says, struggle to provide even one day’s meal to their children.
“After listening to their stories, I realised how privileged I am to have a roof over my head and enough food on my plate. So the least I could do was to help them within my capacity,” says the 42-year-old, who lost vision in one of her eyes after a childhood accident.
Creating a safe space
Lincy began teaching at the school in 2007 and had to take up the responsibilities of different programmes, including the noon lunch feeding programme. “A girl studying in class 4 approached me in the morning, asking when the meal will be served. I said that it would be at 12:45 pm as usual. But after the first period, she came to me with the same query. I casually asked what happened and whether she had eaten breakfast,” she recalls.
“To this, she answered with tears that she didn’t have breakfast as there was nothing left at home but rice from yesterday afternoon, which her mother had to give her brother. The story broke my heart and I immediately bought bread and fed her,” she says, adding that she couldn’t hold back her own tears.
When Lincy shared the incident with her husband Sebastian, the two decided to buy and provide essential food supplies to the child and her family for a month. This began a long journey of doing everything they could to provide for any many students as they could.
Sebastian works as an office staff at a private college in Kuttikkanam, and has always been a pillar of support for Lincy. “My husband has always been active in helping me with my initiatives. I wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise. We always work as a team and he is as involved in social work as much as I am,” she says.
While helping out their students, the couple never hesitated to use their own hard-earned money. “In the beginning, we would buy food supplies and study material using our own money. It was the least we could do and we were happy to,” she says.
Their initiatives took a different route in 2015 when Lincy happened to visit the home of one of her students in Murikkattukudy. “We were a group of teachers who went for a monthly visit. I happened to go to the house of one of my students from class 1. The child was staying with his mother and two siblings in a shed made of plastic sheets. They didn’t have a single piece of furniture to even sit on. This broke my heart as one of my two sons was of the same age,” narrates Lincy.
Lincy and the other teachers quickly initiated a crowdfunding effort for the student.
“We received help from a lot of kind-hearted people and were finally able to arrange around Rs 4.5 lakh and built a house for him,” says Lincy, who later built houses for five more underprivileged students using the same method.
In time, students started approaching her directly, seeking help.
“First, we try to contact the village panchayat or other concerned authorities to check if there are any government schemes or programmes that the family could avail. If there’s nothing, we proceed with our efforts and crowdfund,” she explains.
Crowdfunding is mostly done through social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp, says Sebastian. “These platforms help us take the message to a lot of people, who we don’t know in person but who are kind enough to contribute to a good cause. This way, we have built six houses till now,” he says.
Lissy Thomas, the aunt of one of the students, says, “They built two houses for two of my brothers. Their daughters were students at the Murikkattukudy school and they used to live in a shed. At my brother’s request, they visited his place. After understanding their situation, they built two houses for both families. We will always be grateful to them,” she says.
Alongside crowdfunding, the couple has also donated from their own salary. “We don’t keep a proper account for how much we had donated. We help them according to their need,” says Sebastian.
Lincy, who won the Kerala state Teacher Award in 2020, says she has also been quite active during the pandemic, providing groceries to over 100 families and helping her students by equipping them with televisions and mobile phones for online classes. “We provided around 54 TV sets and four mobile phones for our students who didn’t have access to the online classes. We crowdfunded and bought them,” she says.
While being a part of the noon feeding programme, she also initiated a vegetable garden in the school and makes homemade curry powder for the school kitchen using locally sourced spices.
Lincy and Sebastian now plan to set up a scholarship programme for the kids who lost their parents.
If you want to contact or donate, you can call them at 9447612261
(Edited by Divya Sethu)