Born during World War II—in 1942—to aid people in crises, and under the name Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, today’s Oxfam International works in more than 90 countries and was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
With more than 17 national NGOs working in 90 countries from Tanzania to Guatemala, Oxfam is considered one of the top 10 organizations in the world, a leader in the fight for economic justice, essential services, rights in crises and gender justice. Their ambassadors include actors Scarlett Johansson, Gael García Bernal, Helen Mirren, Kristin Davis, singer Miguel Bosé, and Coldplay.
In 1939, the greatest war among world powers started after the German invasion of Poland. Military operations in Europe, Africa, and Asia and six years of hostility left more than 60,000 dead in battle plus millions more affected all over the world.
There were shortages, refugees, relocations, epidemics, devastated cities, genocide, persecution, and deployment of weapons never before seen by humankind. After the conquest of Eastern Europe and France, on September 7, 1940, Adolf Hitler held the Blitz against his next target: the UK.
Major British cities, including London, Liverpool, Bristol, Southampton, Birmingham, Cardiff, and Manchester were bombed, causing about 43,000 deaths and more than a million homes destroyed.
English society experienced first-hand the evils of war and reacted with repudiation and resolve against the offensive. While the damage was catastrophic, the German Empire had not achieved its primary objective: keeping the British away from the war. Quite the contrary, the attack was the trigger that prompted a group of citizens — led by Joe Mitty — to react, creating the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. Their first mission was to send food supplies to Greece, one of the countries that suffered the most at the time.
In 1945, after the end of the war, the committee successfully boosted the “Save Europe Now” campaign to send food to the devastated and defeated Germany. By the 1950s, the organization expanded its horizons to places in a crisis caused by natural disasters, providing valuable help and assistance after the earthquake in the Ionian Islands in Greece and the floods in India in 1966.
In the 1960s, the Oxford Committee decided to make a shift towards the struggle for justice, as well as economic and social efforts to provide support to the southern populations of the planet. The representatives of the organization were sharply critical of the power structures that hindered the development of those countries. Thus, in 1967, the group set up offices in Latin America. The expansion exceeded expectations, and it became one of the NGOs with the largest presence around the world.
After more than 35 years of significant humanitarian efforts and outstanding results, in 1992 the organization was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, a high recognition that encouraged the members to continue and deepen their work.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that devastated Ecuador on April 16, 2016, was one of the strongest seismic events in the country’s history, as well as one of the largest natural disasters in South America’s recent history.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says more than one million people were affected, including over 650 deaths and more than 50,000 people injured.
Faithful to its principles, Oxfam led the humanitarian aid with supplies and human resources. The efforts were focused on facilitating access to safe water and contributing to sanitation to prevent the spread of disease.
The institution has had a strong presence in Ecuador for more than a quarter of a century promoting improvements in income, living conditions, access to water and land and recognizing women’s rights.
If you want to be part of this great philanthropic effort, this is your chance to donate. The organization depends not only on financial donations; it also has a large number of businesses selling second-hand clothing and objects. You can donate whatever you no longer need or use, volunteers will be responsible for marketing it. The proceeds will go to existing or future projects by the organization. For more information, visit oxfam.org ■