I remember as a child hearing that my parents were giving some of the money set aside for our Christmas gifts to a family in India and being left with a "what?". We would stock our freezer up with 10 cent - 25 cent day old bread every couple months and I questioned whether we were the ones to be helping others ... and a family in India ... where was that anyway?!
Well, it didn't take long actually for my brothers and I to get interested in this. "Our family" would write us a couple times a year and send a picture. It moved me seeing these other kids (near my age!) and their parents with their shack of a house and different clothing. And reading the letters of how they had just bought a goat with our money or chickens and were saving money from selling eggs and milk to fix a well or buy school books. It was interesting and empowering to see this family become self-sufficient over time with our investment in them. I can remember in particular a photo of the two children in their school uniform looking so proud.
This blog entry is here because of a conversation I had with some moms. One mom had brought up how she was wishing to start a tradition of donating at Christmas to a family in need in a third world country but that there are so many organizations and how to figure out which to go with and she was getting bogged down with all the choices. She shared how she would love to have a recommendation to point her in a good direction.
Many of us have these inspired impulses which in our full lives CAN get dropped when we realize we need time to do the research. So wasn't she thrilled when I said I could give her a recommendation! The other women in our group expressed that they would love the details of this organization I worked with as well and I figured some of you might as well ...
I loved and still love the way this particular organization works - it's called "Save a Family Plan.".
Here's the goods on why I am so impressed with this organization in particular ...
#1. 100% of the money you donate goes to the family. Now this may seem obvious but it is not the norm. Typically 9-25% of the money donated to organizations goes to administration. Not so with Save the Family - they only have 3 paid staff and their salaries come from interest on investments and from donors who have donated specifically toward administration costs.
#2. It goes to the family in the community with the greatest need and no preference is given to one religious faith over another. I know this important to many people. Even though this organization was started up 50 years ago by a Canadian Catholic priest, the money does not get distributed with religion in mind. The family with the greatest need could be Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Atheist ... irrelevant here ... only based on greatest need.
#3. You are a family supporting a family so there are always children in the mix. You can let the organization know the ages of your kids so if it turns out they can match gender or age they will. Because it is need based of course this isn't a for sure but they do make that effort if it's something you would like.
#4. They have a great track record and are rooted well in the local communities. Save A Family Plan has a great partnership network and support system within India. They are over 50 years running and currently the family development branch is supporting over 10,000 families with food, shelter, medical expenses, school costs and water (water ... water is trucked in by tanks in some places ... imagine). It surprised me to learn that millions of families are currently living below $1.25 per day in India. The need is massive and it really is a 'do what you can' mentality. I learned at that young age that doing something rather than nothing with big issues like these helps ... and to support something that is rooted in a longer term strategy around sustainability ... ripples out. Involving your kids can plant seeds of awareness, compassion and inspired future action.
#5. They call it the 6 year plan. Over that time the family is given support (the money from you) and guidance on how to become self-sufficient. At 6 years a progress report is made to assess where their current status is at and recommendations going forward are made depending on their current ability to sustain self. They have great systems in place from start to finish.
#6. Every year Canadian families go visit their families in India. Not necessary but what an opportunity! When I went to India in my 20s I had planned to visit but had no idea until I got there with my backpack ready to roll how gigantic India was. I couldn't do it all that trip so didn't make it South to where my family lived but some day that may very well happen. Save A Family Plan has a system set up to help you if you go to India to visit your family. The company's headquarters are 15 minute from the main airport you would fly into with a modest place for you and your kids to stay and they arrange the meeting of your family with a translator. So great!
For more info, go to their website at safp.org. To contact them call 1-519-672-1115 Extension 20 - this will get you to Janice who will answer any other questions you may have or set things up for you!
PS - $20/month is what I pay to look after my family. Every year I receive a tax credit in the mail for this donation as they have their charitable status and number. And in case this is important to you to know when making decisions like this, they are audited by the Canadian and India government so you can rest assured and not just take my word for it that they are legit and reputable (for over 50 years!).
Well, our parents gift us with many traditions and possibilities and when my son turned 5 years old I remembered this one ... I wonder what this might inspire for you and your family this holiday? xo, Dr. Monika (-: