Hamilton: A controversy over the funds raised for an Indian family in New Zealand was resolved after St Thomas Marthoma Church decided to deposit the money for two children.
Naveen Eapechan, a spokesman for the Church in New Zealand said the decision was taken on June 10.
The Church move follows the Weekend Herald revealed that Shibu Kochummen, 36, his 65-year-old mother Alekutty Daniel and his wife Subi Babu, 34 had only received $42,520 of the $102,764 raised for them.
The children will be given the remaining $60,000.
“Part of the fundraising was for the kids as well and it was said the kids could potentially be orphaned … so we thought it was just appropriate that we put it in a trust fund for the kids to benefit them long term,” Eapachan said.
The three adults were hospitalized in November last year when they started vomiting, having convulsions and were paralyzed after eating wild boar.
The Church raised money on their behalf with $30,000 raised through a Givealittle page and $70,000 following a separate parish-led fundraising initiative.
The fundraising stopped in January, but six months later $60,000 has still not been released. The church paid out $42,000 in January so the family could travel back to India to collect their two young children, aged 7 and 1, who were being cared for by relatives.
Eapechan said after the family recovered and ACC agreed to cover their costs, the church considered what else it could do with the remaining money, including returning it to the people who donated it or giving it to another organization such as St John or the Cancer Society.
“We were just enquiring to see what the legal obligations were.”
However Eapechan said none of the money had been touched and the Church decided at the weekend to put into an account for the children following concerns about how it might be spent. A term deposit had been chosen over a trust due to the cost of setting it up.
Church members were speaking with a lawyer and the banks about the best and fastest way to do this and expected it would be transferred within a week, he said.
“We haven’t used even a dollar.”
One of the church bishops in India, Dr Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan, who had earlier instructed the church not to release the money without his approval, told the Herald in an email that the money would only be used to meet the needs of Kochummen.
He said the money had been withheld in case the Indian government would not cover their medical costs. The Church was also waiting on Kochummen to submit his expenses.