By Jeemon Jacob
In 13 years, Santhosh Joseph has provided shelter to more than 2,000 mentally challenged people at his home in Pala in Kottayam, Kerala. A matriculate, Joseph is the perfect example of how one does not need to be highly qualified or very rich to make a difference. The local community has supported his initiative by giving food and donating money for medicines. Like all things big, this too started with one man. “On 14 March 1998, I saw a man wandering aimlessly on the streets. I took him home and gave him food. Thus, Thomas became our first guest,” Joseph recalls. “And that was the beginning of Mariasadanam — a home for the mentally challenged.” What started as a re-modelled cow shed is now a four-storey complex housing 270 inmates abandoned by their families. Joseph, who has done a course in effective care for the mentally challenged from NIMHANS, Bengaluru, spends more than Rs 40,000 a day on the institution. He has also floated a drama troupe of the inmates. Mariasadanam Orchestra, as it is known, has staged 200 shows across Kerala. “We have earned a place in the Limca Book of Records as the only music troupe comprising mentally challenged persons,” he says proudly.
Joseph can be contacted at +91 94470 25767.