Village Superman: Sahayaraj's habit is to help
You must have come across people with names that don't fit them. Vaalavanthan Kottai is a quite village tucked away in the border of Trichy. But contrary to its magnanimous, well-meaning name, most of its residents are impoverished.
You must have also come across people with names so descriptive of them that you cannot stop but wonder if their parents had a vision. In the same village resides Joel Sahayaraj, with his last name meaning "king of help". Indeed, it fits him perfectly.
I first came across him through a common friend. I was deeply moved by the stories of his deeds, and realized I haven't lived to the full potential of a human yet.
During the heavy monsoon that came and went like an uninvited guest, Joel has supplied1 week's groceries to 30 families below poverty line.
Devastated by the impact of the flood on the villagers who lived in huts, he organized a group of volunteers and arranged to serve necessities, including Nilavembu Kasayam to prevent dengue, knocking on each house and covering six villages.
How did you manage the cost?
'Money shouldn't be an obstacle when it comes to serving others,' he said. 'I faced financial problems, but the thought of not lending a hand to those people kept me awake. I had my family support me and also the encouragement of my friends.'
What is your happiest moment while you volunteer?
He smiles. 'Every moment of running here and there in service of others feels blissful, but in particular, I once encountered a family in my village who survived in a ruined handcart during the first lockdown. It was the first time I felt miserable for not being wealthy. I couldn’t afford to build them a brick-and-mortar house, but with the help of a few volunteers, I bought them a new handcart and survival necessities. The smile of the elders and their kids touched me.'
This man didn't stop with helping humans but also provided comfort for mother earth by planting more than 2000 palm trees across twelve villages. He specifically buried those seeds near lakes so the villagers could have stable groundwater.
But why are you focusing only on villagers?
'There are many resourceful people in towns to offer food at orphanages and aid the needy in their community. It's rare to find people visiting villages to understand and uplift the situation here.'
Do you expect people to express gratitude?
'I don't, but if they expressed, nothing can beat the happiness and encouragement it gives.'
Would you like to share a few words for youngsters like you?
'Develop the habit of helping. Volunteer where possible. If you can't lend a hand; at least extend a finger. There are many ways to serve other than offering money.'