75 years of CARE

CARE International has been working to provide lasting solutions to poverty and responding to disasters and emergencies since the 1940s.

CARE's history

CARE International is one of the largest poverty-fighting organizations in the world, providing relief to people hit by emergencies, and contributing to economic empowerment that strengthens livelihoods over the long term.  

What is now a wide network of partners working globally to tackle social injustice started with a simple emergency relief package, delivered over seven decades ago. 

CARE in a box

The first CARE Package™ arrived in Le Havre, France, in May 1946, the first of a wave of responses to millions of people in need of food and relief supplies at the end of World War II. Known then as the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, it consisted of 22 American charities of civic, religious, cooperative, and labor backgrounds.  

CARE took possession of 2.8 million USA army surplus packages in 1946, each containing enough food to feed 10 people for one day, or one person for 10 days. The packages contained staples such as butter, dried milk, canned meat, and sometimes even chocolate and chewing gum. 

An illustrated graphic of a CARE Package that reads "CARE - United States of America - 1945" Play video

Power of a Box

From remittances in Europe to relief everywhere

With Europe on the road to recovery, CARE found itself increasingly involved in Asia – first in Japan and then in the Philippines, Korea, India, and Pakistan. By the early 1950s, operations had been established in a number of Latin American countries, followed by Africa in the early 1960s. CARE at this time also began providing medical services as well as assistance to people in war-torn areas.  

In most places around the world where humanitarian relief was required, CARE had workers on the ground. In recognition of its broadened service offerings and geographic scope, CARE changed its name in 1953 to the Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere. 

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, CARE expanded its remit beyond immediate and short-term relief to more long-term assistance in the form of recovery and rehabilitation. With the Peace Corps established in 1961, CARE began to train volunteers and help manage the Peace Corp’s first projects. We continued to respond with food distribution in the wake of disasters and emergencies but also initiated innovative projects to help communities better provide for themselves. 

From CARE to CARE International 

CARE opened an office in Canada in 1946, yet it was not until the mid-1970s that the organization truly started to become an international body. CARE Canada (initially Care of Canada) became an autonomous body in 1973. In 1976 CARE Europe was established in Bonn following the successful fundraising campaign "Dank an CARE" (Thanks to CARE). In 1981 CARE Germany was created and CARE Europe moved its headquarters to Paris. 

CARE Norway followed in 1980, when CAREs in Italy and the UK were also established. The popularity of CARE offices in Europe was attributed to the fact that many Europeans remembered receiving CARE assistance themselves between 1945 and 1955.  

In 1979 planning began for the establishment of an umbrella organization to coordinate and prevent duplication among the various national CARE organizations. This new body was named CARE International and met for the first time on January 29, 1982, with CARE Canada, CARE Germany, CARE Norway, and CARE USA in attendance.  

CARE International would expand significantly during the 1980s, with the addition of CARE France in 1983; CARE International UK in 1985; CARE Austria in 1986; and CARE Australia, CARE Denmark, and CARE Japan in 1987. 

Beginning the focus on women and girls

Gender equality is key to overcoming global poverty. Empowered women and girls improve not only their individual life conditions but also that of the communities around them. In the early 1980s, our longer-term development programs increasingly began focusing on ways to improve the status of women and girls and encourage their greater participation.

When women earn, everyone benefits. This was CARE’s guiding vision when we launched our first Village Savings and Loan Association in Niger in 1991, still today one of our flagship programs for women economic empowerment. By harnessing the ancient African practice of group savings, in which community members pool their resources to create a kind of village bank. The method provides an effective strategy for women to save small amounts, see their collective savings grow, and borrow money in times of hardship, such as droughts or illness, or to invest in setting up a small business. 

From the civil war in Rwanda to the Persian Gulf War, CARE International was there providing relief in increasingly dangerous operational environments.  

In 1993, to reflect the wider scope of our programs and impact, CARE changed the meaning of its acronym to Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere. 

Two girls stand in the middle of the road, each holding food in one hand. One of the girls has her arm around the other's shoulders and is resting her head on hers. The second girl is bringing up her hand up to her mouth as she smiles.

Empowering women and girls

We help women and girls empower themselves to overcome poverty, focusing on education, economic empowerment, and promoting their voices.

Find out more

CARE in the new millennium    

In the early 2000s, CARE applied its time-tested approaches to emergency relief and recovery to a series of major crises, including the Indian Ocean tsunami, earthquakes in Pakistan and Indonesia, and the displacement of more than 2.5 million people in the war-torn region of Darfur, Sudan. 

In more recent years, the rise in conflicts, climate shocks and health emergencies around the globe have required wider and more complex responses. Multiple crises led to a global refugee crisis, and CARE works with both displaced and host communities in affected areas.  By 2018, CARE has tripled the scope of its emergency response work in five years.

Relief efforts include working at Azraq refugee camp in Jordan with people fleeing the civil war in Syria, and at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, to assist Rohingya people fleeing violence in Myanmar. In 2014, civil war breaks out in Yemen, marking the beginning of what the UN has determined to be one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. CARE works with displaced Yemenis, including strengthening water, health, and sanitation services to prevent the spread of cholera and other diseases.

Our emergency response capacities have also helped to alleviate the impacts of extreme weather events caused by climate change. In 2019, we responded to the devastating impacts of Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, two of the strongest storms to ever hit Mozambique. Two years later, CARE supported people in Haiti who were affected by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake and Tropical Depression Grace. Increased flooding in Latin America, a severe drought in Somalia, and harsh winters in Syria are other drastic climate-related crises to which we have responded in recent years. 

In 2022, CARE scaled up efforts in Eastern Europe to respond to intense conflict in Ukraine, and began working with refugees fleeing to neighboring countries including Poland and Romania.  

Responding to COVID-19 

In 2020, CARE adapted programming to respond to COVID-19 in more than 60 countries worldwide. Response efforts include distributing health and hygiene kits, installing handwashing stations in public places, providing clean water where it is scarce, and helping ensure vaccine access through our Fast and Fair Vaccine campaign.  

Long-term development and advocacy

While responding to these crises, CARE continues its work on long-term development projects aimed to fight poverty and realize the rights of women and girls worldwide.

In Peru, the SABA+ project improved water and sanitation access and delivery to nearly 20% of the population. The Ignite program has empowered women entrepreneurs in various countries to contribute to resilient economies and women’s economic justice. In Somalia, we have empowered communities to fight gender-based violence and female genital mutilation through early education and conscientization programs.

CARE International solidified its position as a leader in the fight against poverty, focusing on: 

  • Food and nutrition security
  • Climate change resilience
  • Humanitarian response
  • Sexual, reproductive, and maternal health and rights
  • Women's economic empowerment
  • Prevention of gender-based violence

We have increased our efforts to influence governments and key international organizations to promote policy changes aimed at more inclusive and gender-equal societies. CARE develops analytical reports to highlight priorities in crisis and response recommendations, participates in key international leadership conferences and seeks to meet public, private and civil society representatives to push for what we consider are the most urgent changes.

Since the beginning of the Ukraine War, CARE has produced various Rapid Gender Analyses to highlight the specific needs of women, girls and other vulnerable groups. We have a strong presence in the Commission of the Status Women annual conferences, the largest intergovernmental body promoting gender equality. Our yearly ‘Suffering in Silence’ report gathers the crises overlooked by the international community around the globe.

Learn more about our Advocacy work.

The future of CARE  

Over the next decade, CARE aims to develop and deepen our work with both youth and the urban poor to achieve our 2030 aspirations and meet the changing needs of an evolving global population. To accomplish these goals, CARE looks forward to working in partnerships for sustainable development and humanitarian assistance with an emphasis on amplifying local women leaders and movements. 

Learn more about our Vision 2030 strategy

CARE International today

A woman smiles while holding a child in her arms. They are standing in an alley way with cheerful teal blue buildings on either side.

Mission and vision

CARE International works across the globe to achieve our vision is of a world of hope, inclusion, and social justice.

An Ethiopian girl wearing a red bandanna crosses her arms. Behind her are a line of women, all wearing blue surgical facemasks.

What we do

We tackle the underlying causes of poverty and social injustice to deliver lasting change in the lives of poor and vulnerable communities.

A man and woman, sitting next to each other, smile and laugh. They are surrounded by their three kids, one of whom is a young girl clutching her father's hand.

Where we work

We work in more than 100 countries across the globe to save lives, fight poverty, and achieve social justice.