1. What does CHARIS stand for?
CHARIS is the acronym for Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore.
The Greek word charis also means ‘grace’ or ‘kindness’.
2. Why and how was CHARIS established?
CHARIS was formed by expanding the role of the former Archdiocese Crisis Coordination Team (ACCT) from disaster to humanitarian response. It was established as the umbrella body for overseas humanitarian aid and, as such, was renamed CHARIS. For the details of how ACCT was formed and its evolution to CHARIS, please see Our History.
3. How is CHARIS constituted?
CHARIS, as ACCT before it, is an archdiocesan body directly accountable to the Archbishop of Singapore.
CHARIS and Caritas Singapore
1. Caritas Singapore Community Council (Caritas Singapore) was set up in 2005 to be the umbrella body for all Catholic charities in Singapore. Why then was there a need to set up CHARIS as another umbrella body?
Caritas Singapore is the umbrella body for the Singapore Archdiocese’s social mission outreach in Singapore, while CHARIS is the umbrella body for the Singapore Archdiocese’s social mission outreach outside Singapore.
Prior to the formation of CHARIS, Caritas Singapore was taken into consideration as the coordinating body for overseas humanitarian work. However, due to various structural and regulatory constraints, this was deemed not appropriate. In Singapore, the rules and regulations governing domestic charities and those pertaining to overseas humanitarian work, especially for fundraising, are significantly different.
The situation is similar to that in some countries where there are two social arms of the Church: domestic and overseas. For example, in the US, there are Catholic Charities USA (domestic) and Catholic Relief Services (overseas), and in the UK, there are Caritas-Social Action Network (domestic) and CAFOD (overseas).
Affiliates & Membership
1. Who can join CHARIS? How can I become a member?
Only Catholic groups or organisations can become affiliates (or members) of CHARIS.
All affiliates should be involved in overseas humanitarian work, whether as their primary mission or as one of their many programmes.
If your group or organisation wishes to join CHARIS, please contact our Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Can individuals become members of CHARIS?
No, membership is for Catholic groups or organisations only.
You may, however, be a volunteer of CHARIS or of our affiliated members. To volunteer, please click here.
3. What are the benefits of becoming a member of CHARIS?
CHARIS members can enjoy increased economies of scale in terms of volunteer recruitment and training, and funding, to name a few. There are numerous programmes and activities that members can benefit from. To view the range of programmes and activities, please click here.
Members are given opportunities to participate in the Church's leadership for overseas humanitarian work and thus can potentially influence how the Church responds to overseas humanitarian needs.
CHARIS members automatically enjoy the benefits of CHARIS affiliation with Caritas Singapore without formally becoming an affiliate of Caritas Singapore. (see next question)
In addition, affiliates do their part to contribute to the Church's unified impact and image in the broader community.
4. If my organisation is primarily involved in overseas humanitarian work and we join CHARIS, do we also need to join Caritas Singapore?
Caritas Singapore has agreed that all affiliates of CHARIS will be accorded the same access and benefits as other affiliates of Caritas Singapore. In other words, CHARIS affiliates will receive communication and discounts on activities organised by Caritas Singapore.
CHARIS and Caritas Singapore encourage all groups involved primarily in overseas humanitarian work to first join CHARIS. They need not join Caritas Singapore but may apply to do so if they wish.
5. How is the role of CHARIS different from that of its affiliates?
As the umbrella body, CHARIS is the coordinator and enabler for its member organisations that are directly involved in the execution or provision of overseas humanitarian work.
However, as CHARIS has also inherited the work of ACCT, it provides direct response to disaster situations.
Programmes and Activities
Humanitarian Aid Fund
1. What is the Humanitarian Aid Fund (HAF)?
The Humanitarian Aid Fund is an umbrella fund set up with a fundraising permit from the Commissioner of Charities to raise money for the work of CHARIS. The money for the Fund comes from donations from the Catholic community in Singapore.
CHARIS uses the Fund mainly to provide grants to organisations undertaking humanitarian work to help those displaced and in need. The Fund can also be used for mission trips and other support for humanitarian purposes.
2. How is this different from the Disaster Aid Fund?
The Disaster Aid Fund was set up by ACCT because its role was to respond to disasters.
The Humanitarian Aid Fund is a broader-based fund that covers all humanitarian situations, which include not just those arising from disasters, but also other adverse circumstances such as poverty, civil strife, war, etc.
3. Can I choose to donate only to disasters, or to a specific disaster or a specific humanitarian cause?
Yes, you can easily do so. You just need to write the name of the disaster (e.g. “Japan Earthquake”) on the back of your donation cheque, or specify it in a note to us if you are donating cash. If you wish your money to only benefit disaster situations, you can write “disasters” at the back of your cheque.
Within the Humanitarian Aid Fund (as well as for the previous Disaster Aid Fund), donations are kept in sub-funds according to the specific causes designated by our donors. We will report the collection and usage of the Humanitarian Aid Fund, broken down by the sub-funds, to the authorities.
4. Can I get tax relief for my donation to the Humanitarian Aid Fund (HAF)?
No, there is no tax deduction available for donations to the Humanitarian Aid Fund or to any overseas causes for that matter. The Singapore authorities currently do not grant tax deductions for overseas donations.
5. I would like to donate to overseas humanitarian causes because the needs seem stronger than here in Singapore. Yet, I read about money being sidetracked in some of these foreign countries by corrupt officials and lost along the way. How do I know that my donation to the Humanitarian Aid Fund will be properly used to benefit those in need overseas?
We understand your concerns. There have been reports of how some of the international aid provided by the world for the Asian Tsunami and other humanitarian situations was lost to corruption and sometimes simply wasted due to inefficiencies on the ground.
CHARIS and our predecessor, ACCT, have sought to minimize such loss by ensuring that our grants are made to credible organisations that we believe will properly apply the funds. Where we can, we make the grants to our local Caritas counterparts. In other cases, we do due diligence checks on the receiving organisations.
In addition, we have a grant process which requires a formal application by the requesting organisation setting out what they intend to do with the money, and a grants committee that evaluates each request and makes its recommendation for approval by the board of CHARIS. The money is often disbursed in tranches in line with the progress of the project. We also require regular reporting from the project leaders.
On our part, what we do with the money is reported on this website. For each disaster and humanitarian situation, we report the grants made. Follow through the links for disasters and for other humanitarian situations. For major grants, there is a separate detailed description. For more information about grants and to search for all or specific grants, click here.
While our approach and process is not fool proof, we do hope to minimize any leakages or wastage in donations from our Humanitarian Aid Fund.
1. What does CHARIS do in relation to overseas mission trips?
CHARIS has two roles in relation to overseas mission trips.
Secondly, we may organise special-purpose mission trips to supplement those that are already in place.
2. What kinds of special-purpose mission trips does CHARIS organise and why?
Most of the special-purpose mission trips that CHARIS organises are either in relation to disaster situations (as disaster response is one of our major roles) or to help our affiliate organisations (in our role as the umbrella organisation for overseas humanitarian work). An example of the latter could be a special leadership mission trip to orientate and prepare trip leaders for our affiliates.
3. I am interested in going on a mission trip. How do I go about it?
You should sign up for one of the many mission trips organised by CHARIS or other groups in the Archdiocese. Click here for a listing of upcoming mission trips.
You might also want to join one of the many affiliate organisations which organise mission trips and become a regular part of their work and activities. Click here for a listing of affiliates.
How to Contribute
1. How can I help out?
As an individual, you may contribute in several ways:
- Volunteer your services to CHARIS or our affiliates.
- Donate money to our Humanitarian Aid Fund. To donate, please click here.
Share your thoughts and feedback on CHARIS and the Church’s overseas humanitarian work.
To give your feedback, please send an email to: email@example.com