Kottayam in central Kerala is a region with 100% literacy. Kottayam was the first district to accomplish this achievement. This district has a legacy of school and college education which dates back to 1800 AD. CMS was the first college in Kerala. The Christian minorities established a number of schools and colleges in the district of Kottayam under the colonial rule. But though the quality of education rises, the quality of social consciousness has deteriorated in our nation. Social Service which has been introduced as co-curricular activity as Colleges has now become a routine to which a good number of students are attracted only for bonus marks. Even educational institutions run by religious institutions do not rise up to the expectations of parents in civilizing the younger generations. In the district of Kottayam, since the last ten years school/college authorities invite Thomas Chettan of Navajeevan trust for orientation programme of Nationa lService Scheme units in the ten day special camp or on any other occasions ofnational/ international significance. The educational institutions see in him a goodrole model competent to give message to the younger generation as his life itselfis a message. Thomas Chettan through narration of his experiences of this worldmove his audience to tears. Naturally the younger generation with innate goodnessand open heart are eager to listen to him. His orientation programme lasts to even 3 or 4 hours. Those who attended his programme visit Navajeevan during the special camp and offer services and experiences a new world of destitute and patients which inculcates in them the feelings of love and compassion. Theymake little donations of money, clothing, soap, detergent powder, tooth paste oranything or render manual labor or present cultural programmes which may meet the requirements of the inmates of Navajeevan. The students communicate with inmates of Navajeevan who are also very happy to see the students. On occasions of Onam, Xmas students from schools and colleges visit Navajeevan. They areencouraged to present cultural programme before the inmates of Navajeevan who enjoy this tremendously. Since the last decade Thomas Chettan would havevisited at least 200 schools/colleges.
The formation of character in younger generations is a great service tohumanity and to nation as the future citizens internalize the training they received in their educational institutions. Transformation of social status through education is only an immediate goal which is good. But transformation of character which has great consequences is the best not only for family but also for the community at large. The orientation programme also focuses on how a youth should be, how a son/daughter should be, and how a citizen should be. The fact that more schools and colleges opt for the orientation programme and at times same college or school opt for the programme at least once in a year reveals the popularity of Thomas and Navajeevan trust as better educators.
Social service has been given a new dimension by P.U. Thomas. He started a new venture, “KanivinKarangal” (Hands of Compassion). His mission is to motivate the spirit of love and compassion in the hearts of students. So far he visited various schools and had interaction with nearly 40,000 students. He decides to extend this programme to all the schools in the state. The crowning example is the output from KanivianKarnagal in the K.E. English Medium School, Mannanam. The principal of this school Fr. James Mullassery wrote letters to parents to render financial help for the surgery of Devika a girl child of 4 years who hails from and economically backward family in Ponkunnam. Students voluntarily contributed Rs. 1.5 lakhs for this little girl who is deaf and dumb by birth. The orientation programme by Shri P.U. Thomas initiated this venture. He is undaunted and enthusiastic about the mission he has taken up and strongly believes that it won’t break up. The society recognized him. Following requests from various non-governmental agencies, associations of doctors, medical students, paramedical staff, and local self governing bodies to the District collector and authorities the Government of Kerala bestowed on him the rare privilege of extending one more year of service after his retirement in 2004. Many leaders like Sri A.K. Antony the hon’bleDefence Minister of India appreciated his service. Laurels of praise were showered on him by many authorities. Unmindful of such things Thomas at this age of 63 has a busy time schedule. He wakes up at 5am the early morning session set aside for prayers is followed by his visit to the hospitals, and voluntary services. He returns to Navajeevan by 3’0 clock. He visits and communicates with the inmates with a loving smile. Evenings are also set apart for day to day administration. He accompanies the vehicle which is assigned with the duty of distribution of food. While in service many people asked him “Why do you work for this small salary as an attender?” His simple reply was that he had to look after his family. His four daughters are employed as nurses and are married. His wife Cicily who first opposed the selfless humanitarian services now has become the greatest supporter behind this successful man. Thomas remembers his meeting with Mother Teresa at Calcutta as a great occasion of his life. In short the life and services of P.U. Thomas, the popular Thomas Chettan illustrates that high education, high job, priesthood, funds through projects from foreign agencies, support of religious congregations are not necessary conditions for serving humanity. Oscar Wilde the great English writer commented “There was only one true Christian. He wascrucified.” If alive he would have commented “There are true Christians who are alive.” P.U.Thomas was recognized by various organizations and societies. He received more than 200 awards. But he has become more humble and pious. His inspiration to help the poor reveals that he has a long journey through this terrain of love and compassion for others. It reminds us of the sentences by Robert Frost
‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.”
Navajeevan activities are a message to the community that to help your brethren in need is the primary duty of any human being. Many people visit the home and get trained in the activities. There are half a dozen similar homes started in various parts of the State after getting inspiration and support from Navajeevan. Now the main focus is on passing on the message of charity to the next generation. Thomas Chettan makes it a point to address the youngsters regularly iin schools and colleges and youth organisations in various paces. They are invited to the Navajeevan Bhavan and encouraged in participating in patient care and other activities. Video clippings are shown to them. There are many professional colleges who sends their students for community service to Navajeevan.
Thomas Chettan as an educator
The educational institutions see in him a good role model competent to give message to the younger generation as his life itself is a message. Thomas Chettan through narration of his experiences of this world moves his audience to tears. Those who attended his programme visit Navajeevan during special holidays and offer services and experience a new world of destitute and patients which inculcates in them the feeling of love and compassion. Later, these students will be taken to nearby Medical College Hospital, along with Thomas Chettan where they make little donations of money, clothing, soap, detergent powder, tooth paste or anything to the poor patients. There, the students communicate with patients in the ward who are also very happy to see the students. The orientation programme also focuses on how a youth should be, how a son or daughter should be, and how a citizen should be. The fact that more schools and colleges opt for the orientation programme and at times same college or school opt for the programme at least once in a year reveals the popularity of Thomas Chettan and Navajeevan Trust as better educators’.