Below you’ll find answers to questions that we are often asked about SCIAF. If you have a question which has not been covered here, please let us know so that we can give you an answer
1. What is SCIAF?
SCIAF stands for ‘Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund’. We are the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in Scotland and the Scottish representative of Caritas Internationalis, a global network of 170 Catholic aid agencies.
We work in partnership with local communities, of all faiths, in Africa, Asia and Latin America to help some of the world’s poorest people free themselves from poverty. We provide tools, training and support so that they can grow their own food and earn enough money to provide for themselves and their families – not just for a few months or a year, but for life.
2. What do you do?
We raise money here in Scotland in order to help people living in poverty overseas. We don’t believe in quick fixes. Instead we work with local people to help them come up with long-term solutions to poverty. We do this in three main ways:
• Supporting poor communities. We work with local partners in 15 of the world’s poorest countries providing seeds, tools and training so that people can grow enough food and get clean, safe water. We also help to build peace in communities that have been torn apart by war, support families affected by HIV and AIDS, and provide education, training and small loans so that people can earn a living.
• Disaster relief. SCIAF is part of Caritas, the world’s largest network of Catholic aid agencies. When disaster strikes, we work through Caritas to immediately get food, water, shelter and medical care to those who need it most. We also run cash-for-work programmes employing local people to carry out vital jobs (like clearing rubble or digging latrines) in exchange for a wage. In the months and years that follow, we help communities to rebuild their lives and protect themselves from future disasters.
• Campaigning for change. To end poverty for good, we have to do something about the issues that keep people poor. Here in Scotland we raise awareness about the causes of global poverty in schools and parishes. We also campaign for change by putting pressure on UK politicians and the heads of big business to make choices that make life easier, not harder, for the world’s poorest people.
3. Where do you work?
We fund community-based projects run by local partners in 15 of the world’s poorest countries.
As a member of Caritas Internationalis, we also work with our Caritas partners to respond to humanitarian disasters in countries where we may not have existing partners.
4. How much of my donation will go to people overseas?
We take great care to make sure your donations have the biggest impact possible on helping people out of poverty. The amount we spend on fundraising and governance is low compared to many charities, enabling us to ensure that more of your money goes directly to communities overseas.
For every pound we receive, 90p is spent on our programmes to end poverty:
• 80p goes directly to communities overseas - either through our projects with partners on the ground or to help out following an emergency.
• 10p is spent on educating people here in Scotland about the causes of poverty and campaigning for change
• 10p is spent on fundraising so that we can continue supporting communities overseas
5. Why does SCIAF spend money on fundraising?
Quite simply, we spend money on fundraising in order to raise more money. We try to keep this cost to a minimum by using volunteers where possible and being as effective and efficient as we can be.
For every £1 we spend on fundraising, we raise between £6 and £7 to help people living in poverty. If we were to stop spending money on fundraising, advertising and resources, our message would reach far fewer people and we would raise considerably less money for our life-changing work in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
6. Does campaigning really make a difference?
Absolutely. We believe that poverty is political which means we have the power to do something about it. By taking action with SCIAF, you can help us tackle the root causes of poverty – like unfair trade rules, climate change and the lack of accountability for UK companies that operate in developing countries. Our advocacy team carries out research to identify areas where SCIAF can make the biggest impact and who we should target. We then run campaigns and carry out lobbying work behind the scenes, putting pressure on decision makers, like politicians and the heads of big business, to make choices that create a fairer world.
You can take action with SCIAF by signing our campaign postcards, taking part in marches, rallies and husting events or by writing to or visiting your MP or MSP. By adding your voice to SCIAF campaigns, you can have a massive impact. Our campaigners have helped secure millions of extra dollars for the Zambian people by holding UK copper mining companies to account, played a big part in shaping Scotland’s world leading Climate Change Act, and were instrumental in the Scottish Government’s decision to introduce a new £3 million Climate Justice Fund which will help people in developing countries adapt to and survive the changing climate.
7. I’ve raised some money for SCIAF, how do I send it to you?
Thank you for raising money for us. We really appreciate your support. You can send a cheque made payable to ‘SCIAF’ to: 19 Park Circus, Glasgow, G3 6BE. You can also make a donation over the phone by calling 0141 354 5555 or online at sciaf.org.uk
8. What is SCIAF’s policy on condoms in relation to HIV and AIDS?
The spread of HIV and AIDS has many causes and our approach includes reducing poverty, providing information about the transmission and prevention of HIV, encouraging people to get tested for the virus, reducing the stigma surrounding it and giving practical support and care to people living with HIV and AIDS and their families.
As an official aid agency of the Catholic Church, and in respect of the Church’s teachings, we do not fund the supply, distribution or promotion of condoms. We ask that all our partners working in the area of HIV prevention provide individuals with full and accurate information about all means of HIV prevention and that this advice is scientifically correct.
9. Do you accept donations of clothes, books and other goods for communities overseas?
No. Transporting clothes, blankets and other goods overseas can be time-consuming and expensive. Instead, we provide training in skills like tailoring and so that people can make and sell clothes and other goods locally. This enables them to earn a living and helps to boost their local economy. Following emergencies like earthquakes or floods, we send money to our Caritas partners so that they can buy the items they need in the countries where they are needed.
10. Does SCIAF only work with Catholics?
No. We work with people of all faiths to offer help where the need is greatest. We are inspired by the principles of Catholic Social Teaching to support people living in poverty, regardless of their religious beliefs, and to challenge the injustices which make people poor.
You do not have to be Catholic to work for, or volunteer with, SCIAF although we do ask that staff gain a sympathetic understanding of the life, culture and structures of the Catholic Church.
11. Can I volunteer overseas with SCIAF?
SCIAF doesn’t offer volunteering opportunities overseas. The projects we support are run by local organisations and staffed by local people. We believe that members of local communities should be trained and supported in finding their own solutions to poverty. We are always looking for volunteers to support our work here in Scotland. Visit www.sciaf.org.uk to find out more.
12. How do you know the money that you send overseas is being well spent?
We do not send funds to governments overseas. Instead our money goes directly to carefully chosen and well trusted local partners who are committed to managing their funds openly and efficiently. We have a close relationship with these partners and they provide us with audited accounts each year so that we can track how the money we send is being used. Our experienced programme officers regularly check up on projects, offering support and advice and visiting them at least once a year to see how things are progressing. If we are alerted to a misuse of funds – which is extremely rare – we investigate immediately. If we are not satisfied that the situation has been resolved, we stop funding the project.
13. When I buy the SCIAF Real Gift of a goat, am I actually providing a family overseas with a goat?
When you buy a Real Gift, your donation goes to a project which provides your chosen gift as part of its work. If SCIAF raises enough money for that project, your donation will go to a similar project. So if you buy a goat but we’ve already received more money than the project needs for goats, your money may go towards something similar like farming tools or other animals. This flexibility allows us to ensure that your donations provide communities with what they need most.
14. What can I do to help?
There are many different ways to give, act and reflect with SCIAF. The best way to help us financially is to set up a monthly direct debit. This gives a steady source of income so we can commit to long-term projects overseas. Volunteers play a vital role in supporting our life-changing work. We also really need people to take part in SCIAF campaigns to help us achieve political change. If you’re a UK tax payer, you can really help by signing up for Gift Aid. This allows us to claim tax back on your donations, which means we get 25% more money for every donation you make and it doesn’t cost you a penny extra! (You can Gift Aid donations to as many charities as you like but you must register for Gift Aid with each of them).Visit www.sciaf.org.uk or call 0141 354 5555 to find out more.
15. Can SCIAF link my school/parish to a school or parish overseas?
Although we do offer schools and parishes opportunities to get closer to the communities they are supporting overseas, we can’t link you with a specific school or parish. We find that it is more efficient and effective to work with local partners who support whole communities rather than build relationships with individual schools or parishes overseas. Working in this way enables us to help a greater number of people and ensure that your donations go further.
16. Where is SCIAF based?
Our head office is at 19 Park Circus in Glasgow and we also share a small office in Ethiopia with our sister agencies CAFOD (England & Wales) and Trocaire (Ireland).
People sometimes ask why our head office is based in a listed building in a prestigious part of Glasgow. We bought it from the Franciscan Sisters for a relatively modest sum. As a result, we have no annual rental costs. We moved to Park Circus from rented premises in the city centre which we were beginning to outgrow. An early comparison of running costs showed that Park Circus was cheaper than the cost of renting and running our previous, much smaller headquarters. The building is also an asset which could be released if we choose to move again.
17. There are so many charities. Why don’t you work together?
We do. SCIAF works closely with our sister charities in the Caritas network – particularly CAFOD (England & Wales) and Trocaire (Ireland) – sharing resources, knowledge and information to save costs where possible. We are a member of CIDSE - a network of 15 Catholic aid agencies from Europe and North America. We are also involved in a number of coalitions and consortiums which enable us to work in partnership with a wide range of charities and organisations who share a common goal or cause. Amongst others, these coalitions include Traidcraft, Will Aid, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, the Trade Justice Movement and Take One Action.