FAQs of Helping
1. If I sign up what is my commitment?
To sponsor a family, the Franciscan Family Apostolate asks that you send a minimum of $25.00 per month and commit yourself to a three year assignment.
2. Am I assigned to a specific family or to a child?
You will be assigned to a specific family. Our families are varied. Some have two parents and children, others have one parent due to death or abandonment. The needs will vary according to the condition of the family.
3. Will I be responsible for all their needs?
No. Many of our families are earning about $20 to $25 per month. Your monthly assistance will double their income. They may have specific needs that you may want to address however that will be up to you. We ask only that you do not fall under the $25 per month. Every sponsor is only asked to help based on his or her own ability.
4. Are there programs offered by the Franciscan Family Apostolate to assist my family?
Yes. One of the great ventures of the 20th century was the idea of the small loan, micro-credit, given to the poor to assist in the development of a venture. The Apostolate will help any sponsored family with a small loan, $300 to $500, to start a small venture. Such ventures would be purchasing some goats for dairy; setting up a small roadside shop; helping to purchase equipment etc. The is loan just that – a loan. The family is expected to pay the loan back over an agreed stipulated period. The fund set aside for this purpose is constantly replenished and has been a 100 percent success.
In order to access such a loan a family needs a sponsor such as yourself to insure he or she is capable to payback the loan. There is only a one percent interest on the loan.
5. If I sponsor a family can I communicate with them?
All sponsored families are obligated to write a quarterly letter to their sponsor, which you will receive in the postal service mail. However, although strongly encouraged, sponsors are not obligated to write. Letter writing has been an important part of the program since its founding in 1971. Communication then was very difficult. It would take a letter anywhere between eight days to two weeks to get to India. By the time a response was received it would be a month to a month and a half. One would forget what one had written over such a long period. Today, however, with the advances in technology through the use of the Internet, communication is simple. You merely have to email out one day and, in a few days, sometimes only in a day, there is a response from our wonderful staff. You can use email to send a note to your family which staff will share with them. If you have a Skype account and wish to talk to our staff in India…that is only a click away. In a word, the poor are only a click away as well as the people who are willing to help them everyday. We actively use DropBox as our cloud location for family evaluations. Every six months our staff is obliged to visit all the families under our care. There evaluation is posted on Dropbox and is accessible to each individual sponsor.
6. Where is your office in India:
Our main office in India is located at in the Mount Carmel Cathedral in Alleppey, Kerala. We have a staff of six women – a Canossian Sister who is our director there and five laywomen, all trained by the Sisters at their nearby college, Saint Joseph’s College. Our director answers directly only to the Bishop of Alleppey as the Franciscan Family Apostolate, due to its long record of involvement, is considered one of the primary institutions of social justice in the diocese. Each staff member in the office is assigned to a zone of the diocese, which covers 46 villages, and is responsible for the care of the sponsored families located there.
7. In view of the proximity of the Apostolate to the Church in terms of direction, are only Christian families sponsored by the Apostolate?
No. The Franciscan Family Apostolate is not a religious organization. It was originally under the auspices of the Secular Franciscan Order, a lay order, since its founding in 1971. However, in order to be independent to assist families of whatever caste, color or creed, it sought and received a 501(c)3 federally tax exempt designation as an independent charitable organization. The Apostolate remains “Franciscan” in vision and spiritual tone, however its goals are to assist the poor, whomever and wherever they are, with no goal other than Jesus’ admonition to “love one another as I have loved you.” All that being said, the Diocese of Alleppey, since the founding of the Apostolate in 1971, has always assisted the poor regardless of caste, color or creed creating a solid partnership over the years beneficial to all parties involved. It has been a marriage made in heaven.
8. OK. If I sponsor a family at $25 per month, how much does my family get?
There is always a cost for doing business. One cannot get away from it. However we think we have a good record which we have maintained over the years. Our record, according to the State of Connecticut, discloses that 86% of our donations are sent to India to care for the poor.
9. Where can I check up on the financial record of the Franciscan Family Apostolate?
Every year the Franciscan Family Apostolate is required to file a Federal Tax Form 990 showing income and expenses. This is filed with the Department of Consumer Protection, 165 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106. On the Internet the 990 can be found at Guidestar.org under Franciscan Family Apostolate Inc.
10. Is it possible for my company to provide a matching grant to the Apostolate?
Yes. Matching grants are a great boon to charitable work. It would provide your family with double the amount you are sending. This is a great boon for any sponsored family – manna from heaven.
The general rule for matching grants is the refusal of companies to give to religious organizations. Care should be taken to advise your company that the Apostolate, although its name would seem to imply it is a religious organization, is not. It is an independent 501(c)3 charitable organization seeking to care for the poor regardless of religious orientation. Among the ranks of our many sponsored families are Hindus, Christians and Muslims. Need is the basis of selection not religious leanings. Every sponsor is encouraged to see if their company has a matching grant program. It is a great boon indeed.
11. Can I use PayPal for my monthly sponsor payments?
You are welcome to use PayPal to send in your monthly sponsor payments. And, we will be happy to work with you, if you wish, to have those monthly payments automatically sent each month. If you choose to use PayPal, we ask that you add 4% to your monthly donation to cover the fees that PayPal will charge us for handling your transaction.
12. Can I visit my family in India?
The world is getting smaller every day. Forty years ago it was a great effort to fly to India. Today, there are daily non-stop flights from the U.S. to many of India’s major cities. If you want to tour India you will find wonderful places to see and comfortable facilities to stay in, but a trip is worthwhile simply to visit your family. Our staff in Kerala is ever ready will help you with local arrangements.
Many sponsors have taken this trip and come back a different person. You will see, with your own eyes, the impact that you have had on a family 10,000 miles away. It is astounding, warm and an unforgettable experience. One you will never forget. You can read of one sponsor’s experience, a professor from the University of Pennsylvania, who visited his family while traveling in India at this link. It is a trip you will never forget!
(At this point in time, the political situation in Andhra Pradesh is such that travel there is not recommended due to violent demonstrations which have occurred in the past. )
To sponsor a family, learn more here.