In the immediate aftermath of the Asian Tsunami which struck on 26 December 2004, the Catholic Church in Singapore collected over S$1.5 million. The Archbishop formed the Archdiocesan Crisis Coordination Team (ACCT) to disburse the funds to other organisations working to help those displaced by the tsunami. Following the Java Earthquake of 2005 and other natural disasters, ACCT became the vehicle for the Archdiocese’s response to all natural disasters. It established a Disaster Aid Fund in 2006 to be able to do so proactively.
In April 2008, a Caritas Singapore roundtable on overseas humanitarian work, which was attended by various Catholic groups working in this area and the Archbishop, identified the need for greater synergy and coordination in this area. The subject of overseas humanitarian aid and alternatives for achieving synergy and coordination were examined in several subsequent forums.
The Caritas Singapore Community Strategy in 2009 proposed the formation of a new umbrella body to provide such coordination. A second roundtable in January 2010 sought and obtained positive feedback on the proposed construct from the various Church organisations undertaking overseas humanitarian work.
Following the second roundtable, the Archbishop agreed to the reconstitution of ACCT as the new umbrella body for overseas humanitarian work. ACCT’s purview was thus expanded from natural disasters to humanitarian relief, and it was renamed Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiatives, Singapore (CHARIS).
The Archbishop officially launched CHARIS on 20 August 2010.