Aswathy: Serving the Poor with a Flame of Compassion

Thiruvananthapuram: Teary eyes frantically in search of food, stomachs that endure hunger pangs and faces that reflect the fear of displacement – these are not uncommon sights for someone who travel, or rather someone who even steps out of his or her house for sundry purposes. Usually, these images draw one’s attention for a moment and then fade away. But that was not the case with young Aswathy Nair. With the blessings and support of her mother, Aswathy, who was then pursuing her LLB course, started doing social service by distributing ‘pothichoru’ (lunch in a banana leaf) to destitute people in Thiruvananthapuram. Never did she know that this act of her, which was prompted by her concern for the poor, would be the turning point in her life, which would lead to the establishment of Jwala Foundation, an NGO for the needy and underprivileged, in the capital city of Kerala.

Aswathy Nair who set up Jwala Foundation, an NGO for the needy and underprivileged, has been involved in social service for the past five years

 

“Like any other youngster, I found joy in going for outing with friends, having good food and buying good clothes. But once I had come across the hard realities of life, I understood that even if thousand people work here for hundred years, the needs of such underprivileged and displaced individuals could not be met,” says Aswathy, who has been instrumental in rehabilitating more than 800 individuals over the years. She has also received numerous accolades for her selfless services.

Her realisation about violation of basic human rights led her to speak up for the hapless victims of such cruelties. “It dawned on me that community service alone is not sufficient. I had come across an asthmatic and TB patient named Salim from Attakulangara and I had to get him admitted to General Hospital. But he was denied admission since there was no bystander. There were many such hindrances on our way and that was the reason I decided to fight back,” adds Aswathy.

She recounts how many organisations refused to admit such people and provide shelter. Interacting with such hapless people has helped her in forming an emotional bond with them. Jwala gradually became a ray of hope for such people which, in turn, increased Aswathy’s confidence in moving forward. Jwala also conducts medical camps where they provide vitamin tablets and nutritious food to the needy.

Social media platforms like Facebook have been a very useful and supportive in the growth of Jwala. By sharing her personal experiences in social service with several like-minded people, Aswathy got many supporters who voluntarily donated money for the cause of the NGO. Doctors from government hospitals have also extended their support for providing medical assistance to the indigent people referred by Jwala.

The organisation has also helped set up 102 bunk shops (pettikkada) with the intention of providing a livelihood to such needy people. However, the government policies that were not in favour of setting up such shops were a challenge to them.

“After being involved in Jwala activities, we find displaced people wherever we go. We need not go in search of them. I found an old lady on the footpath once when I was riding my scooter. I somehow felt like talking to her. On doing so, I realised that she was mentally unstable. Then we took her to her native place Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu where she was reunited with her son, who was also mentally ill. He was also locked up in the house for more than 10 days,” narrates Aswathy.

She opines it is more important to take care of mentally ill individuals than normal old-age people. They feel more secure and happy with their family or in their native place than staying at comfortable and safe special homes. “Some families even refuse to accept them. We have to educate them and, on certain occasions, even force them citing legal points. We also ensure their well-being by regular follow-up visits,” adds Aswathy.

Though being a law graduate has helped her in many ways, she does not conceal her disappointment in not being able to practise it as she is busy with her social activities since 2012.

But an office of Jwala was set up only in 2016. The NGO has an autorickshaw and an ambulance, which are sponsored by SBI and a Bahrain NRI respectively. Jwala provides 150 ‘pothichoru’ to the needy in a radius of 30 kilometres. Aswathy is planning to set up a rehabilitation home on 12 cents of land for the mentally-ill people at Poonkulam near Thiruvallom in Thiruvananthapuram. The NGO had also recently launched their mobile app, Jwala Saathi.

“I know Jwala Foundation and Aswathy for a long time, in fact, since the days of my father, the late G Karthikeyan, the former Speaker, Kerala Legislative Assembly. He had also helped them in many of their programmes and endeavours. Aswathy is a fully committed and genuine social worker based in Thiruvananthapuram. We even invited the destitutes supported by Jwala for our wedding,” says K S Sabarinadhan MLA who recently got married to Dr. Divya S Iyer IAS, who is holding the post of Deputy Secretary in the Local Self-Government Department at present. Government authorities should support people like Jwala for encouraging more people to do good for society.

When there are hundreds of people who find solace in Aswathy, she has the very strong support of her family which includes her husband Manoj Kumar and two sons. She says her mother was the pillar of support for her in the initial days of community service which still continues.

Aswathy can be contacted over +91 98956 63537or Jwala toll-free helpline: 18004251098