In late 1990s when email usage and the Internet were getting popular, a few of the laity of the Malankara Orthodox Church of India, who were scattered across the globe, formed an informal email group to keep in touch with each other and share information of common interest. The group was initially known as IOIF – Indian Orthodox Internet Forum. Over the years that Forum became a large on-line community, and a member suggested the name of ICON for the group.
ICON stands for Indian Christian Orthodox Network which encapsulates the regional and socio-cultural underpinnings of the group. Though the members of the group are predominantly members or well-wishers of the Malankara Orthodox Church, head quartered in Kerala, India, it has no formal affiliation with that or any other Church.
As members began to participate in on-line discussions of issues facing them as Orthodox Christians of Indian origin, and practicing their faith away from their native region of Kerala in India, at times they also presented cases of individuals and or families going through difficult situations owing to unforeseen calamities. This was a common feature around school opening season when many requests for help from members of ICON were proffered by ICON members who could vouch for the authenticity of the requests for financial assistance being sought for the needy applicants. Initially a few members formed an informal group to collect funds and serve the needy as and when such needs arose.
ICON Charities, Inc
In 2005, a few members of ICON became the Founders of a formal non-profit organization in the U.S., and got it registered as a public charity governed by Federal Statute and regulations as per Section 501(C)( 3) with its formal name of INDIAN CHRISTIAN ORTHODOX NETWORK CHARITIES, INC., (aka ICON Charities,Inc). ( IRS Approval Letter )
The main function of the organization is to undertake charitable projects sponsored by ICON members living in the United States or elsewhere. The organization is managed entirely by volunteers, with no paid staff or office locations. Though the operational focus areas are dictated by the interest of ICON group members, the primary areas of operation of the organization are in supporting the needs of the poor, primarily residing in Kerala who are seeking assistance to meet the costs of education, finding basic shelter, and or other human needs arising from unexpected natural calamities. ICON Charities may also occasionally offer similar assistance to needy individuals or groups residing elsewhere in India, when presented by ICON members for consideration by members of ICON Charities' Board of Directors.
ICON Charities' Partners
ICON members, volunteers, voluntary board members, donors, and advisors are generally termed as ICON Charities' partners. The partners are those who willingly spare their resources for the projects supported by ICON Charities. ( List of Partners )
ICON Charities functions as a platform where values and aspirations of its caring and compassionate members are translated into tangible benefits for the poor and the needy in our society. It promotes simple acts of benevolence and random acts of kindness by its members and volunteers. ICON Charities enables an ordinary member of the community to become a philanthropist by providing a framework to invest one's time, talent, and money for the betterment of the community. It promotes volunteerism and demonstrates the joy of giving back to the society : as the noblest of civic duties we need to be engaged in.
ICON Charities uses crowdfunding techniques to find the resources for the project it undertakes and thus being reactive to the situation. Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. ICON Charities publishes the needs to its online community and interested donors selectively participate in the causes they are also interested in supporting.
Symbolic meaning of ICON
For religious people an icon is symbol or a sacred image which has a special meaning to them. An icon conveys a visual expression of a religious belief. An icon is also a reflection of one’s unique belief and worldview. In that way, ICON Charities provides its partners a unique charity framework and an opportunity to support the causes they believe in.
Synergy is a management term used to describe the additional productivity or effect gained from different individuals working in cohesion, when their cooperative effect becomes greater than the sum of their united efforts; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In religious terms, it is the work of the Holy Spirit or cosmic consciousness that enables each one of us to do better than if were to toil alone. ICON Synergy is this concept of working together for converting each one’s knowledge, skills, and talents to produce greater benefits to the community, which can never be achieved by individual efforts alone. ( Example ICON Synergy Awards )
Religious Outlook and Non-Discrimination
The driving passion of the organizers of ICON Charities is Christ’s teachings of universal love and compassion. Its operating philosophy is “do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” and its relationship with its stakeholders is “let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” and “bear one another's burdens.”
Though the organization is rooted in Christ’s teachings, it accepts support and help from all and serves all without any discrimination. We are committed to mutual respect of all religions and non-proselytization. We believe that “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
Sustainability and Effectiveness
The sustainability and effectiveness of the organization is solely dependent on the passion and dedication of its volunteers. We depend on volunteers who can articulate the needs of the less privileged and are willing to share their time, talents, and treasures. We are continuously looking for passionate volunteers to serve in many capacities within the organization and raise this volunteer-run organization to its next level.
Send your comments and suggestions to info@ICONCharities.org
IOIF Name Change to IOCN
It be more appropriate if the new name has an acronym like ICON; we can be members of ICON. If that is acceptable, then the name could be INDIAN CHRISTIAN ORTHODOX NETWORK. May be it is justified like, first a Christian and then Orthodox. (Msg 8089)
Dr. K. Poulose Jacob, Cochin
(Pro Vice Chancellor, Cochin University)