Augustine J. Kandathil

(Father Gus) 

Founder of  SAFP


Origin of Save A Family Plan (SAFP)

SAFP is a Canadian international development organization and a registered charity in Canada and the United States.  SAFP encourages those from developed countries to work for justice and social change by assisting poor families and communities in India through a myriad of developmental activities under two main programs: Family-to-Family Development and Family and Community Development.  SAFP also works in partnership with various government agencies and local institutions in Canada and India.

SAFP began with inspiration received from Pope Paul VI at the International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay (now Mumbai), India in December 2-5, 1964. Monsignor Augustine John Kandathil (Father Gus), a priest from the Archdiocese of Ernakulam, South India, heard the appeal by Pope Paul VI to the world to join him in a non-violent battle against poverty and hunger in countries like India. SAFP was born in 1965, assisting five poor families in the southwestern state of Kerala, India.

100% of all donations received by SAFP reaches the poor.  This consistently has been accomplished since 1965.  It is achieved by keeping administrative costs to a minimum.  The operational costs are met by interest earned on short and long-term investments.

SAFPís volunteer base is one of its greatest strengths.  It allows costs to remain low on both sides of the globe.  SAFP is headquartered at St. Peterís Seminary in London, ON, Canada, which provides office space for a nominal fee. Volunteer work by students of the seminary, along with community members, enables every cent donated to be sent overseas, directly reaching the poor. In India alone, more than 10,000 volunteers, working in 68 units in nine states, provide a committed network to ensure that aid reaches those who most need it at the grassroots level.


Father Gus  - Founder of SAFP

Monsignor Augustine John Kandathil (Father Gus as he liked to be called), founder of SAFP, was born in Vaikom, Kerala, South India on May 5, 1920.  He studied locally and was exceptionally bright in his studies.  He obtained his Bachelor of Physics and Bachelor of Theology degrees, and then taught school for a time.  He soon felt the call to a vocation in the Church and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1947.  He served in a small parish in Angamaly, Kerala, India.

Later he received Bachelor of Science and  Master of Science degrees at the University of Madras, Tamil Nadu, India.  He qualified for a Fulbright Scholarship  which allowed him to attend the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, where he obtained a Doctorate in Chemistry.  He began teaching chemistry at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1962.

In December 1964, at the International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay (now Mumbai) Pope Paul VI made an impassioned appeal for the world to join him in a non-violent battle against hunger and poverty.  Father Gus heard this appeal.  In 1965, SAFP was born with assistance going to five families in the southern part of India.

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 SAFPís 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 manís 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.

Annals of SAFP


Monsignor Augustine John Kandathil (Father Gus as he liked to be called), a priest from the Archdiocese of Ernakulam hears the appeal by Pope Paul VI during the closing mass of the International Eucharistic Congress held in Bombay India. This appeal requested others to join the Pope in a non-violent battle against hunger and poverty in such countries as India. He, along with Father (now Bishop) James MacDonald and Dr. Leo Ferrari, begin SAFP by assisting five poor families in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam in Kerala state, southwest India. The programming is considered family development, assisting very poor families with monthly assistance for the necessities of life.


SAFP becomes established and gains more contributors.


Father Gus travels across Canada and United States promoting SAFP.


SAFP accepts more Diocesan Social Service Societies as partners in India.


SAFP begins helping poor families through community development programs. One of the most popular at the time was the inexpensive purchase of a goat ($50). They provided much needed nutrition from the milk and the daily sale of the extra milk brought in a small but regular supplemental income for a poor family.


SAFP India begins to be established in an informal way.


SAFP, on invitation from Bishop (later Cardinal) Emmett Carter begins the process to move its headquarters.


SAFP moves from its original location at St. Thomas University, Fredericton, and NB, Canada, to St. Peterís Seminary, London, ON, Canada. The seminary graciously provides inexpensive office space and the students, along with volunteers from the community, keep SAFPís administrative expenses to a minimum.


SAFP establishes a Board of Directors in Canada.


SAFP begins a partnership with Canadaís federal government via CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency). CIDA supports SAFPís community development programming.


SAFP builds its first Home of Healing. The Home of Faith is constructed to care for the physically challenged children of the poor and has the capacity for 40 residents.


SAFP is registered with the federal government and incorporated in Canada as a registered charity and non-profit organization.


SAFP begins a partnership with the provincial government of Alberta through AAID (Alberta Agency for International Development). This agency is now called, "Wild Rose Foundation" and with SAFP has assisted poor women in India through joint, annual programming.


SAFP begins the process to establish SAFP India office at Aiswaryagram (which means "place of perfect contentment" in the local language of Malayalam), Parappuram, Ernakulam, Kerala, southwest India.


*SAFP India is registered with the Indian central (federal) government as a trust, "SAFP Trust India".  Rev. Kuriakose Mampilly is appointed the first Executive Director of the newly constituted SAFP Trust, India.
*Father Gus retires as SAFP Executive Director and moves back to India, taking up the position of President of SAFP India.  Father Sebastian Adayanthrath, a priest of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, is appointed Executive Director of SAFP, Canada.


*SAFP celebrates 25 years of serving the poor by beginning community development programming in Haiti, considered the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
*SAFP undergoes its first institutional evaluation by CIDA                                                                                                    


Income generation projects are started in the Port-Au-Prince area and first homes are built in Gros-Morne, Haiti, despite the political turmoil                                                                                                  *Integrated Village Development program (IVDP) (1991-1994) starts with support from CIDA


*Integrated Human Development Program (IHDP) starts with support from CIDA                                                                                *Rev. Joyce Kaithakottil is appointed Executive Director of SAFP India.


Rev. Joyce Kaithakottil departs SAFP India to take up parish duties in his local diocese.  Rev. Anto Cheranthuruthy is appointed Executive Director of SAFP India.


*SAFP undergoes CIDA evaluation of its income generation and peopleís organizations, called Sanghams
Rev. Anto Cheranthuruthy departs SAFP India to take up parish duties in his diocese.  Rev. Francis Kolencherry is appointed Executive Director of SAFP India.


*Peoples participatory Development program(PPDP) (1997 -2000) starts with the support of CIDA                                                                                      *SAFP launches a housing program called, "2000 Homes by 2000". 2,543 homes were built under this program.


*Father Gus, SAFPís founder, retires from SAFP.
*Msgr. Abraham Karedan is appointed President of SAFP India.


*Strengthening partners for sustainable Development (SPSD) program (2000-2003) starts with the funding from CIDA                                                                                              *Father Gus, SAFPís founder, died on July 18th in southern India and is buried in his home church graveyard.  On his tombstone are the words that sum up his dedicated life work, "The poor deserve the best".
*The earthquake in Gujarat state, India, measures 7.9 on the Richter scale. SAFP begins rebuilding the village of Mota Varnora.
*Rev. Francis Kolencherry departs SAFP to take up church work in U.S.A.  Rev. Joseph Odanat is appointed Executive Director of SAFP India.


* SAFP undergoes its second CIDA institutional evaluation.
* Rev. Sebastian Adayanthrath, after serving fourteen years as Executive Director of SAFP, was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, Kerala, South India on April 20, 2002. Father Joseph Odanat was appointed SAFPís new Executive Director on August 1,  2002. Rev. Augustine Bharanikulangara is appointed Assistant Executive Director of SAFP and Director of SAFP India. The Haiti Program is completed.


*SPED I program(2003-2006) started April 2003 with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency                            *Rev. Joseph Odanat resigns and returns to India.                     *Mrs. Lesley Porter is named Director of Operations for SAFP Canada.


*Mrs. Lesley Porter is named Executive Director of SAFP Canada.  *The devastating tsunami of December 26, 2004 struck southeast Asia, including southern India.  SAFP began emergency aid in 12 districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala states and established programs


*SAFP celebrates 40th anniversary.

*Rev. Michael T. Ryan, after serving 30 years as SAFP Canada's President, retires.

*Ms. Lois CŰtť is elected as President of SAFP Canada

*SAFP Canada celebrates 40 years with a silent auction and evening gathering on October at King's University College, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada.


*SPED II(2006-2009)Program starts  with funding from CIDA                                                                                  *Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath, President of SAFP India visits the Canada office and, upon invitation, travels to the offices of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in Ottawa, Ontario to give a talk on SAFP's successful gender equality program.

*SAFP gives reception on June 22 for Mrs. Theresa Mikula and Mr. Harvey Gleason, who are retiring from the SAFP Canada Board of Directors



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Last modified: December 03, 2009