Dr Herbert Herring, the former director of the ‘German Cultural Institute’ in Chennai, and his wife Dr Lakshmi Chettur came across the many tribal communities around Gudalur during one of their travels. The subhuman life led by the tribal communities touched their hearts and the two of them soon settled down in Gudalur, to serve these communities. In 1991, they started Samaritan Gramodharan Samithy. 

They chose Gudalur as the operational location for Samaritan, with the aim of helping the neglected tribals and other financially struggling people of Gudalur in the Nilgiri district and its suburbs to a reasonable existence and a better future. 

With 8 out of 10 people suffering from ill health and malnutrition, supplying medical aid and food was the initial priority. A clinic with one full-time doctor and nurse was opened. Over the years, the target community’s needs shaped the organisation’s operations. 

In 2002, after the demise of Dr Herring, Dr Lakshmi carried the mission forward with fervour.  But, as the years rolled on, she felt the need to entrust the organization to safe hands. She tried many famous institutions but found a cultural fit with the secular organization with Sevalaya. A visit to Sevalaya’s Kasuva campus reconfirmed her belief that Sevalaya would be the best cradle for Samaritan.