Save a Family Plan SAFP

partnering with the poor for a just world

Linked with Beena Sebastian – India.

SAFP is a Canadian-based international non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1965 by Monsignor Augustine Kandathil. SAFP is committed to seeking justice and working with the marginalized and poor of India regardless of caste, creed, gender or political affiliation. SAFP is in partnership with more than 50 Diocesan Social Service Societies/local NGO’s, over 52,000 sanghams/self-help groups (grassroots, community- based organizations), more than 25 Institution based rehabilitation centres (for the physically or intellectually challenged, the elderly destitute and the dying), and more than 19,000 families annually in India. SAFP is supported by a wide network of volunteers.

Who we are;
family to family development program;
community development programs;
annual report;
Newsletter archive;
contact / donate online;

About/history
: The aim of SAFP was to meet basic needs of poor families and to encourage them to move toward self-reliance in order to become full, contributing members of their local community.

Over the years, SAFP has grown and today, more than 14,400 families receive monthly assistance. An equal number benefit through the Community Development Program which includes housing, livelihood initiatives, water and environment, job training, etc. The system set up by Father Gus continues to this day. The simplicity of Father Gus’ vision established a solid foundation and the plan has continued to serve an ever-growing number of families and communities.

Father Gus retired as Executive Director of SAFP Canada in 1989 and returned to India to become President of SAFP India. He remained firmly at the helm until he retired from his beloved SAFP in 1999. He moved to a priest retirement home where he lived out his last years in prayer and contemplation. He died on July 18, 2001. He is sorely missed in the organization he began.

On Father Gus’ tombstone in his home parish in Vaikom, Kerala, India are carved the words, “The Poor Deserve the Best”.

The following was written by Father Michael Ryan in SAFP’s 2000-2001 Annual Report. Father Ryan was the President of SAFP Canada for 30 years and is a parish priest in the Diocese of London, ON, Canada:

“It was in September 1959 that I first met Father Gus. We were both graduate students at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, he in chemistry and I in philosophy. Nearly all the priests in the graduate school lived in the same residence and so we saw a lot of one another. There was only one telephone, at the end of our residence hall, and whenever Father Gus spoke on it, with his very distinctive voice, we could all hear him. We used to accuse him of making sure he could be heard in Calcutta! He had a battered old automobile to help out at parishes in the area. More than once I threatened to pray over it before he set out, especially in the winter season.

“In 1962, I began teaching at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, ON and Father Gus became a faculty member at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, NB. In 1965 Father Gus started SAFP. In July 1966 he drove through parts of Canada and the United States promoting SAFP, and on that occasion stayed with us at the seminary for several days. In 1967 I adopted my first family and began regular correspondence with Father Gus. When he suffered a heart attack in 1972 he was afraid that SAFP would collapse when he died, and so he enlisted my help in finding a permanent home for SAFP. He was invited to live with us at St. Peter’s Seminary and in 1973, became a member of our community.

“Though he started out with one small office at St. Peter’s Seminary, Father Gus’ operation was soon expanding into other rooms and hallways. We used to joke about keeping out of his way! He soon became a great friend of everyone at the Seminary, a source of sound advice and dogged adversary in theological discussions. He was also a great example, a man of prayer and simplicity of life, who owned no more than the clothes on his back.

“In 1989 when Father Gus moved back to India, we all thought he would return to us one day, but it was not to be. He and I maintained a regular correspondence, but we were not destined to meet again in this life.

“When he died in July (2001), his friends looked in his room for a good cassock in which to bury him. They discovered he possessed only the worn garment in which he had died. It was a wonderful final lesson from the man who had always identified with the poor and devoted his life to them.”

SAFP grew out of one man’s prayerful response to an appeal by his Pontiff. It has grown into a thriving, responsive organization that continues to listen to the voice of the poor. (full text).

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