CHANGE leaders do great things, and often that is all we know about them. Here we want to get a different glimpse of the personalities that constitute the development space. Every month we get one leader to answer four questions, not necessarily about their work, but about themselves. This week we catch up with Fr. Paul Thomas, Executive Director at Kottapuram Integrated Development Society (KIDS).
For about 30 years, KIDS have been working towards uplifting marginalised communities, including people with disabilities in Kottapuram, Kerala. Fr. Paul Thomas strongly believes in two things: that self-reliance is the most important step towards empowerment and that sustainable development is the way forward. KIDS are bringing both together by supporting women in and around Kottapuram craft their way to a financially secure and stable life by making handicrafts using natural fibres such as screw pine and water hyacinth.
Small Change: Why does this cause matter to you?
Fr. Paul Thomas: I always knew that I wanted to work towards the betterment of underserved people. The determination to strive that I see among people with disabilities is inspiring. For instance, one such woman is Elsy Arackal who is one of the artisans at KIDS. She didn’t let intellectual disability hold her back. She is the sole earner in her family and takes care of the entire family. People like Elsy motivate me to work for the community.
SC: What’s your least and most favourite thing about humanity?
Fr. Paul: On one hand, we see people with a lot of commodities – way more than they need – and, on the other, there are people who are struggling to survive without basic necessities. This gap between the two is something we have created and that has always bothered me.
Ironically what I like about humanity is how we have the ability to help each other in need. During the Kerala floods last year, we were providing shelter to around 16,000 people on our campus. In the time of crisis, I saw how people from all caste, creed, religion, and region got together to help us. That for me was heartwarming.
SC: If you could invite three famous people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be and why?
Fr. Paul: I would invite St. Mother Theresa as she is one of the best examples of how to help those in need; Dayabhai the living legend who has worked all her life towards the upliftment of tribal people and has been my inspiration to do the work I do; and Rt. Rev Dr. Joseph Karikkassery, Bishop of Kottapuram because his way of life has been my guiding light.
SC: If you could have a superpower, what would that be?
Fr. Paul: I would choose to heal people. It would use my power to heal everyone, be it people suffering from cancer or people affected by polio. I would like to put an end to suffering.
You can help Fr. Paul achieve his vision by donating to KIDS today, one of the trusted NGOs on Small Change