When she lost her hut in the flood, T Rama from Chendamangalam in Ernakulam pleaded with relief workers to bring her a plastic sheet so she could use it as a tent. However, the relief workers, imbued with the state’s post-flood motto “build back better”, floated a WhatsApp group called “Home Challenge”, mobilised Rs 2.5 lakh from its 61 members, and constructed a pucca house within 15 days.
On Monday, 64-year-old Rama stepped into the 600-sqft house — perhaps the first to be constructed by an instant social media group.
The devastating floods in August had wreaked havoc in Kerala, with 15,000-odd houses completely damaged. A month later, 2,241 people from 711 families are still in camps.
Rama, an MGNREGS worker and wife of late Sreenivasan, said, “When I came back after the flood, my hut was gone. There was only a mud foundation in its place. Several youths were cleaning houses in the neighbourhood, so I asked one of them to bring me a sheet for me. I wanted to spread it on my three cents of land and restart life there.”
Rama said she didn’t know who they were. “I gave them details about the lost hut. They promised me a new house. They came one after another and constructed a house for me within 15 days. All of them are strangers to me,’’ she said.
Anil Chithru, a film professional, said they floated the WhatsApp group after the relief work. “When we went to remote areas in flood-affected zones, we found many were homeless. We were moved by the plight of Rama. Soon, we started a group ‘Home’, which was later made ‘Home Challenge’.”
He said several persons from Kerala and outside joined the group and chipped in with contributions ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 35,000.
“The construction was well-planned so we could complete the work in 15 days. Group members and paid workers joined the construction of the house, which has a tiled floor. The woman was surprised to see strangers (the group members) at the house-warming on Monday,” Anil said.