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CARE’s History: A Timeline

A large family convenes around a table filled with food items from a CARE Package.
Mr. I.R. Constad, Assistant of CARE's Mission for England and Wales with Mrs. Killagllon and family.

The Original CARE Package is Born

At the end of World War II, with much of the world in ruins, Arthur Ringland and Dr. Lincoln Clark approach 22 American charities to propose a non-profit corporation to funnel food packages from Americans to loved ones in Europe. The charities agree and on November 27, they incorporate the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe (CARE). After negotiation with multiple government agencies, CARE takes possession of 2.8 million “10-in-1” military food rations. These rations become the world’s first CARE Packages® and an American symbol is born.

“The name was created one evening in the fall of 1945 in the family room of Lincoln Clark’s home in College Park, MD. Alice Clark looked up from her ironing to ask why her husband was pacing the floor. Because, he replied, he was trying to think of an organizational name whose initials would make up a word expressing the idea of food relief. ‘… your three key words are Cooperative, American, and Europe,’ Alice told him. ‘But the letters C-A-E don’t spell anything. How about distribution? How are you going to get the packages to the people who need them?’ she asked. Lincoln explained the plan we had developed … ‘Now we’re talking,’ Alice said. ‘You could use the word remittances and name the organization the “Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe.” The initials would give you a word that has a meaning by itself – CARE.’ That is how CARE was named. As far as we know, the only reward Alice Clark ever received was a sincere kiss from Linc.”
– Wallace Campbell, The History of CARE

Four adults and three children huddle around a large CARE Package with canned goods stacked around it.
The recipient of the 50,000th CARE package to be delivered in Czechoslovakia was the family of Frantisek Berger of Praha-Brevnov. At the time of this photo, Berger and his seven children were all tubercular. Daniel Benedict, CARE Chief of Mission in Czechoslovakia, who delivered the CARE package, is pictured with the Bergers and four of their children - three others were in a tuberculosis sanatorium.

War and Recovery

After just six months, CARE delivers the first CARE Packages to the port city of Le Havre, France. President Harry Truman, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower ask Americans to support CARE. By year’s end, CARE has operations in 10 European nations.

CARE develops other kinds of CARE Packages, including wool and baby food, creates a distribution system, regional sales offices and steps up promotion featuring actor Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. In 1948, with Soviet troops surrounding Berlin, CARE airlifted 200,000 CARE Packages to hungry Berliners, around 60 percent of all private aid to the city. Missions expand to Korea, the Philippines and Israel.

CARE Packages now include soap, textiles and toys. Seed programs begin and celebrity endorsements continue with Marlene Dietrich, Gregory Peck and others. In 1950, CARE participates in famine relief in Yugoslavia, opens missions in Pakistan and India. Plows and farm tool packages are developed marking the start of self-help agricultural projects. Korean War relief begins.

Arrival of the first CARE packages in Le Havre, France. The packages were greeted by CARE cofounder Dr. Lincoln Clark.

Regine Binet of Bayeux, France, a town not far from the Normandy invasion beaches, receives a CARE Package in 1946.

Former President Harry Truman is signed up for a donation to the CARE “Food Crusade” by Mrs. Olive Clapper, head of the Washington CARE Office. Mr. Truman made the first donation to the CARE “Dollar Day” drive.

A copy of President Truman’s donation to CARE, signed in 1946.

May 12, 1949

When Soviet troops blockaded Berlin in 1948, the first major crisis of the Cold War ensued. The US responded with the now famous airlift, which included 250,000 CARE packages – 60% of all relief sent to the city. When the blockade was lifted in May 1949, CARE trucks, the first vehicles to enter the city, were greeted with roaring welcome by the crowds of Berliners.

In 1951, CARE is nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by the Austrian government. In 1952, CARE opens its first mission in Mexico, marking its entry to Latin America, with its first female Country Director. Resettlement kits are created for German refugees. Canada, Latin America and Europe account for 13 percent of CARE Package donations. CARE partners with world health organizations to distribute medical supplies.

By 1953, CARE’s Yugoslav and Korean missions reach their peak, with Korea the largest single relief operation for a private agency in one country. When five more missions open in Latin America, the “E” in CARE becomes “Everywhere.”

Arrival of the first CARE packages in Le Havre, France, greeted by CARE cofounder Dr. Lincoln Clark.

CARE expands operations to Vietnam and Latin America by 1954. New laws pass allowing CARE more access to U.S. government food surpluses and shipping. A feeding program is launched in Egypt. CARE Packages now represent 25 percent of expenditures as programs diversify.

1955 was a pivotal year for CARE. The organization closes most of its European missions with the war recovery nearly complete. The organization considers dissolving, but rather chooses to scale back from 42 to 20 missions. The food surplus program in Egypt becomes the largest feeding program ever undertaken.

A large group of men surround a truck with CARE Packages and pass around the items inside.
CARE mounts a two-year effort to support Hungarian refugees after the 1956 Uprising.

New Frontiers

The next ten years are witness to the ebb and flow of CARE’s presence around the world, responding to shifting political forces and sudden onset emergencies. CARE mounts a two-year effort to support Hungarian refugees after the 1956 Uprising, begins a massive school feeding program in the Philippines and supports victims of wars and persecution in Gaza, Tibet, and Cuba.

The organization is an active responder to natural disasters in Colombia, Peru, Sri Lanka, Chile, Iran, Vietnam, Algeria, and the Dominican Republic. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy creates the Peace Corps and asks CARE to train its volunteers. In the same year, CARE provides resettlement kits after the construction of the Berlin Wall.

In this decade, CARE also opens its first non-Arab African missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone. In 1963, the 50 millionth CARE Package is delivered in Colombia. By the end of 1965, Poland, Yugoslavia and Greece are the only remaining European missions.

August 1, 1956

A girl in Korea hugs new shoes she received in a CARE Package.

September 22, 1961

President John F. Kennedy hands a pen to R. Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps, after officially signing the Peace Corps Act on September 22, 1961. CARE was asked to help train the first volunteers before their inaugural mission to Latin America.

Photo courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

A woman sits at a desk and sews on a sewing machine.

Leading Global Development

The years between 1966 and 1975 mark a shift to the “new CARE,” a development organization also prepared to rush aid to disaster areas. During this time, CARE’s family planning programs were introduced in Egypt and would spread to India, Turkey, Honduras and Pakistan, along with education programs that usher in shared-cost self-help programs in partnership with local communities.

War relief efforts continue in Vietnam and Nigeria-Biafra, including $1 million in aid to Vietnam after the Tet Offensive in 1968. Response to natural disasters continues, particularly in India, East Pakistan (Bangladesh), Peru, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Niger, Honduras, Nicaragua, Chad, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Mali.

A cart pulled by a camel is stopped at a building. Beside the cart are multiple large food bags labeled,
This camel-drawn vehicle was loaded with flour and rice that CARE distributed in India.

In 1967, CARE Europe forms, a forerunner to CARE International, to raise funds from European donors. The last of 100 million CARE Packages is sold. CARE’s Agriculture and Natural Resources unit is formed to support the more effective management of land.

By 1975, there are no more European missions. The fall of Saigon in that same year ends CARE missions in Vietnam and Cambodia.

An Indian man wearing a headscarf pours flour out of a large can and into a bag. A mother and her young child watch. Behind them is a large group of men, women, and children sitting and standing. Four large CARE boxes are stacked on top of a nearby table.
A local CARE representative of CARE pours out a ration of flour for a struggling mother at one of the distribution points in India.
A black and white image of a man leaning over and pulling flour out of a food bag.

Local Leadership

In the next decade of CARE’s evolution, specific emphasis is put on the training and contributions of national staff toward taking over operations locally. The dynamics of a changing world more sharply define CARE’s operations in many places.

The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan effectively ends CARE’s mission there, but work continues with Afghan refugees fleeing to Pakistan. Major relief operations begin aiding refugees from Kampuchea (Cambodia) who reach Thai border camps.

The overthrow of Idi Amin in Uganda signals CARE’s return to the country after suspending operations in 1973. CARE begins its “CARE for the Earth” campaign, starting in Niger, Indonesia and Columbia, with a forestation project in Guatemala. In 1982, CARE International is formally created.

June 1981

Food distribution in the Jabal El Halal area in Egypt.

Vice President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, meet CARE president Philip Johnston in Sudan in 1982.

Twelve years later, CARE honored President Bush with its International Humanitarian Award for his decision to use U.S. troops to end the famine in Somalia. At the award ceremony, President Bush said, “Since 1946, CARE has been the conscience of our country.”

Women’s development programs develop in Bangladesh and expand internationally, including primary health care and income generation. In 1983, the signs of impending drought in Africa are evident and CARE expands rapidly on the continent throughout 1984. In 1985, the worst famine in a century grips Africa. Public support jumps as the world responds to the crisis.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds a capital formation program through CARE. Programmatic work in health programming expands and CARE forms its Food Programming Unit.

Three Kenyan women wearing green, blue, and orange hold up young plants.
Three women display young plants, part of a crop growth project in Kenya in 1987.

Responding in a Changing World

Famine relief in Africa continues throughout 1986-7, but “donor fatigue” sets in and cash donations drop. Despite this, CARE continues its work with drought victims, helping them to plant trees and conserve soil. CARE’s management structure takes shape with regional management units and formal sector work. In 1987, Fortune Magazine names CARE “Best Managed Charity.”

In 1988, CARE becomes the first western aid agency to work in China, helping farmers with poultry and livestock management. That same year, CARE airlifts 50,000 CARE Packages in its first operation in the Soviet Union. The organization also launches its first AIDS education program in Rwanda and Kenya and marks its return to Afghanistan after a decade of guerrilla war.

CARE’s environmental and food distribution work continue, and immunizations reach half a million people as CARE contributes to a decade of unprecedented success in immunization and reducing infant mortality. CARE’s Population Unit is formed (family planning) and small business development programs grow worldwide.

In 1991, major relief operations continue in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War. CARE temporarily revives the CARE Package, distributing 600,000 of them to help stave off hunger during the winter food shortage in the crumbling Soviet Union. CARE’s environmental and health programming units receive multiple grants from USAID and significantly expand.

Also in 1991, CARE launches a micro-savings project in rural Niger that would become known as Village Savings & Loan Associations. Today the model has been adopted by several other development organizations and there are more than 15 million VSLA members across sub-Saharan Africa.

Funded largely by CARE International members, in 1992 CARE sees its largest year of expansion after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The following year, CARE USA moves its headquarters from New York to Atlanta, and changes its name again to the “Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere.”

Also in 1992, CARE helps start the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya, near the Somalia border. CARE has been key partner in the camp, which remains one of the world’s largest, providing education, food and other critical services. In 1993, CARE continues its responses in Somalia and Afghanistan, and forms its Emergency Assistance Unit to respond to increasing disasters and conflicts and Public Policy and advocacy programs increase.

In 1993, CARE commits to focus on women and girls as key agents of change in fighting poverty, and begins its journey of transforming the forces that hold women and girls back.

In 1992, CARE sees its largest year of expansion after the collapse of the Soviet Union

In 1993, CARE begins focusing on women and girls as key agents of change to fight poverty

In 1994, CARE begins school programs in Bosnia, and continues food relief to Haiti after troops occupy the island and responds to ethnic massacres and the resulting refugee crisis in Rwanda.

CARE opens operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories after self-rule is established in Gaza and the West Bank. South Africa programs grow as apartheid ends.

In 1995, CARE celebrates its first 50 years and marks a record year in funding and programmatic scale. Over the next two years, CARE adopts a service delivery model focused on household livelihood, local partnerships, enhanced advocacy initiatives and select global operations.

A girl wearing bright red and holding a thin rope and digging tool looks at the camera. Behind her is a wide expanse of dirt and sand with a couple of trees.
The Afar people of Ethiopia. CARE’s FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) Project worked for over 5 years to gain the confidence of the Afar people.

Empowerment, Equity, Sustainability, Advocacy

Complex humanitarian emergencies continue to mark the post-Cold War Era. Economic collapse and civil conflict pave the way for famine, violence, the spread of infectious diseases and refugee movements.

CARE takes up the challenge of tackling poverty at the root through a platform of empowerment, equity, sustainability and strengthening civil society. In 1999, CARE pioneers its accelerated education program for girls in India who are taken out of school for financial or other family-related reasons.

“The organization seeks a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and people live in dignity and security. We will be known everywhere for CARE’s unshakable commitment to the dignity of people.”

– CARE’s current vision focusing on human rights and causes of poverty, adopted in 2000

In 2001, the organization changes its logo from the variation on its original CARE “stamp” to the “circle of hands” still in use today.

With more than 90 percent of CARE staff working in the countries they are from, CARE fosters diversity and local innovations. In 2000, CARE develops an approach to education programming in Cambodia that focuses on adolescent girls and pilots working with local and national governments to change policies that lead to poverty and exclusion. This eventually drives CARE’s global education portfolio that reaches millions of underserved girls worldwide.

In 2003, CARE Thailand became the Raks Thai Foundation, the first CARE member governed from a developing country to prioritize local voices in development.

In 2004, USAID funds CARE’s SHOUHARDO program in Bangladesh. The success of the initiative to prevent childhood stunting from malnutrition would go on to stun the agency, proving twice as effective as a typical intervention, with much of the gains attributed to the program’s efforts to empower women.

At the end of 2004, thirty countries are in conflict, and the threats of terrorism, the human toll of war and the HIV/AIDS pandemic continue to challenge CARE staff worldwide, but the organization continues its pursuit of a world free from poverty and social injustice through community development, emergency response and rehabilitation programs.

CARE begins 2005 with a strategic focus on its core programming: basic and girls’ education, emergency response, HIV/AIDS, and water and sanitation. The organization collaborates to create the ONE Campaign, develops the CARE Action Network of advocates nationwide, plays an important role in pressing the U.S. government to fulfill its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, and appears before Congress to support post-Tsunami aid and the global water crisis.

Also in 2005, after the kidnapping and tragic murder of CARE’s country director in Iraq, we halted operations in that country – which did not resume until 2014 with our response to the displaced persons crisis in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

Two teenaged girls wearing dark long-sleeved shirts and white headscarves raise their right hands.
Hanifa, 17, is part of the CARE Out of School Girls Project, which started in 2003. She is the only one in her family to go to school.

Women and Girls at the Center

In 2006, CARE responds to the Boxing Day tsunami that struck 14 countries across the Indian Ocean. CARE was among the leading humanitarian agencies that responded and worked with affected communities across five countries to reconstruct homes and livelihoods and promote economic and social development, reaching more than 1.3 million people.

In 2006, CARE USA welcomes President and CEO Dr. Helene Gayle, who joins the organization after Peter Bell steps down after ten years. That same year, the organization fully adopts a focus on women and girls through Pathways to Empowerment and signature programs in maternal health, education and leadership, and economic opportunity.

In 2007, CARE USA decides to end the practice of food monetization – selling U.S. government food on the open market to fund anti-poverty programs – seeking alternatives to monetization that would make U.S. food assistance far more effective. In 2009, CARE develops its Learning Tours program. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CARE takes policymakers, government leaders and change-makers on short, intensive trips where they meet the people whose lives are being transformed through U.S. investments.

Two young Haitian girls wearing denim dresses over yellow shirts wash their hands at a station.
The Pyramide School in Leogane was damaged by the earthquake. CARE supported the school with water and sanitation programs like building latrines and hand washing stations.

In 2007, CARE Peru launches its landmark campaign to influence the government of Peru to change its nutrition policies and help create the new national strategy to fight malnutrition adopting proven methods from CARE programming. This allowed Peru to cut chronic malnutrition in half over the last decade, something no other country has done as quickly.

Also in 2009, CARE VSLA member Goretti Nyabenda appears on the cover of the New York Times magazine, the face of an extensive piece titled the “Women’s Crusade” highlighting CARE as a leader in the movement to fight global poverty and extremism by empowering women and girls. The article was adaptation of Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book “Half the Sky,” which also featured Goretti and CARE prominently.

A group of several women sit around a table. On top of the table is an open gray metal box that says CARE.
A VSLA group in Sierra Leone.

In 2010, CARE takes a leading role in responding to the devastating earthquake in Haiti. In our immediate response, we distributed emergency relief supplies, providing food, clean water, temporary shelter, and other services to more than 300,000 people within the first four months. Over the longer term, we have continued to work to help Haitians rebuild, improve livelihoods and become more resilient in the face of future disasters.

In 2011, CARE welcomes South Sudan to the global community of nations, moving resources to the world’s youngest country, and mobilizes response when civil war broke out in Syria. CARE is also a leading responder to food crises and drought in the Sahel and in the Horn of Africa.

A woman and child sit in a small hospital room on two separate beds. Each is hooked up to an IV.
A woman and child in a local hospital in West Nepal. CARE's Bharosa project there focused on helping those with HIV/AIDS.

In 2014, CARE advocates work to pass the U.S. Farm Bill, which includes provisions that will give the U.S. greater flexibility in the way it responds to food emergencies overseas. CARE sources food locally, empowering local businesses and reaching more people at no cost to U.S. taxpayers. In that same year, CARE begins work at Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan, welcoming Syrian refugees.

In March 2015, civil war breaks out in Yemen and CARE Yemen staff turn to humanitarian response. In June, Michelle Nunn joins CARE USA as President and CEO after Helene Gayle steps down.

In September 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) awarded the third round of CARE’s Strengthening Household Ability to Respond to Development Opportunities, or SHOUHARDO, program, funding $88 million over five years. Also in that year, two of CARE’s closest corporate partners – Cargill and General Mills – joined forces to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and strengthen the global supply of cocoa.

A large group of men and women, some sporting CARE canvas tote bags, raise their hands and cheer and smile.
Advocates pose for a group photo just prior to storming the halls of Congress to lobbying during CARE's Hill Day efforts at CARE's National Conference in Washington DC.

Scaling for the Future

In 2016, CARE marks 25 years of its VSLA program, now numbering 200,000 groups in 35 countries with 5 million members. The organization adopts programmatic pillars to better streamline its sectoral work into the categories of Emergency Response, Food and Nutrition, Women’s Economic Empowerment and Maternal Health and Rights. CARE is the first international NGO to adopt new tools to track its impact in the world at a global level, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. Since then, CARE has been able to show meaningful progress out of poverty in the lives of more than 64 million people.

In 2016, CARE marks the 70th anniversary of the CARE Package by having a handful of original CARE Package recipients, once child refugees in Europe, write heartfelt letters of solidarity to Syrian refugee children in Jordan. CARE’s “Letters of Hope” campaign would inspire more than 10,000 other people to write their own messages of encouragement to refugees, culminating with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, herself a child refugee during World War II, recognizing original CARE Package recipients and present-day refugee advocates from Syria at the CARE National Conference in Washington, D.C.

A woman wearing bright royal blue smiles as she opens a metal box on the floor.
Haoua of Kagadama village outside Maradi City in Niger is the daughter of Fatchima Aboubacar, a member of the first VSLA (MMD), begun in 1991.

In 2017, humanitarian crises deepen when Rohingya populations, under attack, flee from Myanmar to Bangladesh. In Venezuela, inflation, water and electrical shortages, and growing rates of malnutrition force thousands to leave the country, seeking refuge in neighboring countries. In both cases, CARE swings into action to help those seeking asylum. CARE Philippines wins the World Habitat Award for its work responding to Typhoon Haiyan.

By 2018, climate change affects millions, with increasingly violent storms. The Syrian civil war in 2011 is followed by years of additional conflicts around the world, from Yemen and South Sudan to Myanmar and the DRC, creating a global refugee crisis that prompts CARE to more than triple the scope of its emergency response work in just 5 years.

A young girl bites into a plaintain.
Endisma Zuniga, 4, from Maracaibo in Venezuela, survived on one meal of plantain a day for months. Her parents can no longer find the essential medication for her diabetes.

CARE’s advocacy – especially from teams in Asia and Latin America – contributes to the adoption in Geneva at the International Labour Conference (ILC) of a new ILO Convention on ending violence and harassment in the world of work, an important milestone on the journey to advance women’s economic empowerment and to realize lives lived free from violence.

In 2019, CARE marks 20 years of Udaan (now SOAR) schools with goals for educating 3 million additional girls in Asia and Africa.

In 2020, CARE’s COVID-19 response has targeted more than 60 countries worldwide, including the United States. Priority actions we are taking now include providing health and hygiene kits, installing handwashing stations in public places, and providing clean water where it is scarce. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CARE revived the CARE Package in the form of donations sent to a global community and gift cards sent to workers on the frontlines.