1976 was an eventful year in the history of Kasarkod, a sleepy fishing village on the south bank of Sharavathi estuary, on the silver sands of the Arabian Sea beach. An unassuming lady Dr. Kusuma Sorab stepped into Kasarkod with the mission of providing health services especially to the village communities in the Sharavathi Valley, for most of whom the Government Hospital in Honavar, over-crowded always, was otherwise the main refuge in crisis. To realize her mission of medical and social service to the poor Dr. Kusuma, a post-graduate in medicine and surgery, left the bustling metropolitan city of Mumbai, preferring the peace of Kasarkod, its silence broken only by the sound of sea waves and of the west wind whistling through the boxwood groves rendering a unique charm to it. Thus was born the Snehakunja Trust, an ashram of refuge for people in distress, more so for scores of village women.
The Trust with the support of like minded persons, under the leadership of Dr. Kusuma, established the Vivekananda Arogya Dhama Dhama for providing health services to the poor.Soon Dr. Kusuma realized that the health problems of the poor is more related to the economic and community dimensions, which led to the development of a comprehensive social development model action plan focusing on community health, rural development and environmental advocacy. Dr. Kusuma trained young women on the formation of independent groups to make themselves self-reliant. Dr. Kusuma was an apostle of environment and believed strongly that mismanagement of ecological systems is a major cause for maladies of the modern world. She focused on eradication of superstition and illiteracy, organized local communities to protect the environment. During the upward cycle of movement her life was extinguished tragically in a road accident!
The mission continued nevertheless with Snehakunja Trust leading in constituting women’s self-help groups, in public health care relying mainly on the traditional Ayurveda and nature care, organic farming, in constituting village forest committees for co-management of forests with support from the Forest Department and many social and environmental action oriented work involving the communities and establishing links with other regional civil society groups.