An Inspiration to the Community – Overcoming Disabilities

The Salim FamilyIrfan Salim is from the Puthenjunnu village in Bathery, Kerala, South India. He is a shy but determined man who was born physically disabled and has no use of either of his legs. To help earn a living for the family, his wife Hafsa cleans houses. They have two children; an elder daughter, Tahseen, who is studying fifth grade and a younger daughter, Asifya who is studying second grade.

Both daughters suffer from tuberculosis and need expensive medicine and treatment, which the family cannot afford. The FDP staff members have worked with the family to find a suitable income generation project for Irfan that would give the family more financial stability.
Repairing Bicycles

Irfan was able to attend a bicycle repair workshop and was motivated to begin a small business using his new skill. As he gained momentum and excitement, he expressed his desire to start a small snack shop near their house as well, as there were none in the neighborhood. Now he is successfully operating both of his businesses and has accessed a government resource that provided him with a three wheeled motor bike, allowing him to complete his tasks more quickly.


He is not only an example of how this program can allow a family to become self-reliant, but he is a source of inspiration for others in his community. He does not allow his disability to limit him.

Three Wheel Motor Bike


New opportunities for families by accessing government resources

Mrs. Sheela and family in front of their home
Mrs. Sheela Kurian and her family come from Kottayam, Kerala in the south of India. When the family joined SAFP’s Family Development Program in March 2007, they were unable to meet their daily expenses, and their children’s education was at stake as the family could not afford to send both their son and daughter to school. Mr. Kurian was unable to work as he suffered from severe pain in his lower back.

At the time of selection, the family owned 0.03 acres of land and they were able to mobilize both government and local resources to reconstruct their house. Through monitoring visits, local SAFP staff identified Mrs. Sheela’s motivation and enthusiasm in starting an income generation project and encouraged her to attend driving school. She was able to graduate from driving school and wished to start her own taxi service, but did not have the funding to purchase a vehicle. With the support of SAFP staff, and through networking with other community organizations she was able to access a grant subsidy from the Kerala State Government of $2098.00, under the Women Taxi Promotion Program.
Mrs. Sheela receives a subsidy to buy a taxi
On November 17th, 2012, her taxi business was officially inaugurated by the Honorable District Collector. Through this business, she is able to make a profit of $104.00 a month. Her husband is very supportive of her and now he is also able to work by driving an auto rickshaw. Their son Ajmal has completed 12th grade and has applied to take computer technology courses in college, and their daughter Ashna has successfully completed 6th grade.
Mrs. Sheela with her new taxi

Sustainable Change through the Family Development Program

SAFP began with the inspiration of Pope Paul VI at the International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay (now Mumbai), India in December 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, through the partnering of supporters in North America with five families in the southwestern state of Kerala, India.

Since then, more than 50,000 families have completed the Family Development Program and more than 11,800 families are currently partnered with supporters in North America. The program continues to be our core program and allows local grassroots self-help groups to select the most needy families in their communities based on criteria set out by SAFP (must have children under 13 and demonstrate striking poverty) to receive support for 6 years.

When families in India join the program, they are guided in setting up a bank account and $20 is deposited each month through the support of the partner in Canada. The family is assisted in critically analyzing their problems and making yearly plans and budgets to use the funds to overcome their problems. They are encouraged to start an income generation project (a small business) to help improve the family’s income in a sustainable way. This program also allows families to address basic-needs issues such as housing, health problems, education, indebtedness, sanitation, food security, etc. Families are encouraged to take an active role in the development of their families and communities though receiving training to increase knowledge and confidence. They are also supported in joining the local self-help group, participating in their local government, and accessing government grants and schemes.

Reena starting the programReena’s story of change and transformation is one of many examples of how families’ lives are impacted through this program. Reena and her family are from Alappuzha, Kerala and have successfully completed the Family Development Program through a Save A Family Plan partnership.

Before taking part in this program, the family struggled to meet basic needs and keep their small grocery store open. Their health was poor, they were malnourished, the children could not go to school, and their home was an unstable, one room hut.

Six years later, things have drastically changed for Reena and her family. After taking out micro-loans from a local credit union and accessing government social programs, they were able to expand their store and purchase a scooter to help with delivery of goods which has greatly increased their business’s success. By taking part in skills training that was offered by local staff members, they were able to access health insurance and start an organic kitchen garden. Finally, they saved enough money to begin the construction of a new house. The local government was able to give them a subsidy allowing them to complete the project. Things that were only dreams 6 years earlier for this family are now a reality. Reena expresses: “We cannot think of what our life would have been like without SAFP.”

For more information about Save A Family Plan’s Family Development Program, please visit our website.