Church ponders on $60k raised for poisoned family
The church that raised money for a Waikato family poisoned after eating wild boar says it is exploring options about what to do with the remainder of raised funds, following a six-month delay.
Shibu Kochummen, his wife Subi Babu, and his mother Alekutty Daniel were hospitalised in November last year.
Hamilton Mar Thoma Congregation set up a Givealittle page to raise money for the family and this, together with direct donations to the church, raised $102,764.
Of this money, $42,520 has been given to the family.
It was used for costs related to bringing two immediate family members over from India who helped support the couple's two children, aged seven and one, while they were in hospital.
The fate of the remaining $60,224 was still yet to be decided however, six months after it was first donated.
Spokesperson Naveen Eapechan says the church had spent the six months since they stopped fundraising deciding what to do with the money.
He says the delay was because the money was raised initially for the family's bills and once ACC came on board to cover these the church decided that money should possibly go to a charity.
"We were just getting some opinion on what we could do, whether that was a possibility, if not this money should possibly be put in the children's name, a trust fund or something, so they can benefit from it for the future as well, so that was the consensus."
ACC initially denied the family cover for their medical bills but later overturned that decision.
The Givealittle page did not explicitly state the money was being raised in light of ACC not providing funding.
Rather, it stated that money raised "will be fully forwarded to Shibu's family and the welfare of their kids" .
Those who donated money to the cause were not contacted about a possible change in direction of the funds, or updated about any progress.
One Givealittle donor, Bijay Choundhury, says it would have been a difficult situation for any family and he was glad to know a good amount was raised.
"But why it was not given to family?" Mr Choundhury says.
"Whenever I have some money I donate, but only for good cause. If it's not going to be used effectively, what is the point?"
Hamilton Mar Thoma Congregation has the remaining $60,224 sitting in an account and the church "has not taken a penny", Mr Eapechan says.
The Givealittle fundraising page raised $29,959.72 for the family, while the rest was given directly to the church.
A Givealittle spokesperson Lynne Le Gros says payments were generally paid out in the month following the pledging of donations.
While Givealittle encouraged it, page owners were not required to provide updates to donors once fundraising had finished.
Ms Le Gros says the church was the recipient of the payment in this instance and that had been paid.
"Our process worked as we would have expected it and then we rely on the receiving party, in this case the church, to then be doing the right thing with the funds once they've received them," she says.
No assurances are made by Givealittle that funds raised by a third party are passed on.
Mr Eapechan says it's now the goal of the church to pay out the family as quickly as it could.
"In fact, we're all taking time off work to see if we can expedite this, you know ... we are working to get it done ASAP because none of us want to deal with this, this has actually created a lot of grief for us."
He says the church nominated two people yesterday to discuss options with the family and as soon as this was done, the money would be released.
However, a friend of the family said the church had not made contact with them about the funds.