CARE Package® 75: Then: providing, today: empowering

By Barbara Grantham, President and CEO, CARE Canada

Seventy-five years ago, my mother's family bore witness to the horrors of the Second World War. While many did not survive, my grandparents and their two daughters did. My grandparents brought their family to Canada, where they had a chance to start anew. From an early age, I was taught to be profoundly grateful for opportunities that were possible for my family here in Canada, opportunities that millions of other families did not have.

As my family was settling into their new Vancouver home (like so many others fleeing Europe), a collective came together to send items overseas for those who remained. Millions of European families had lost everything and struggled to rebuild their lives. Out of this tragedy, with this collective spirit, an act of generosity was undertaken that still to this day takes my breath away, with its scope and breadth. It was, without a doubt, a testament to the best of the human spirit.

For most of us, 'care packages' are defined as gifts to loved ones, especially items not readily available to them. We often hear about mothers sending "care packages" to their far away university-enrolled children or about friends sending a "care package" to an ailing friend. With the pandemic, the "care package" has had a renaissance, as packages are prepared and delivered to health care workers, remote employees, homesick relatives, those in quarantine etc. Born out of a desire to undertake an act of compassion in the wake of a devastating war, it has come to represent, more widely, brightening and leavening someone's day with thoughtfulness and compassion.

A group of children displaying the contents of a CARE food package in Austria, July 1948. ©CARE
A group of children displaying the contents of a CARE food package in Austria, July 1948. © CARE

While the 'care package' is now part of our lexicon, the CARE Package® is a registered trademark that dates to May 11, 1946. Those first CARE Packages® after the Second World War contained non-perishable food and household essentials to aid war-torn European nations and their citizens. Today, they may include any variety of items, depending on the recipient, where one lives, and so on.

CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) evolved over the years, as the 'call' and the need for global solidarity changed. My family was blessed, for they established a good life in Canada. That included a commitment to serving others because of the good fortune afforded them. And learning from my grandmother and my mother, I've committed my career to serve others, to honour those who came before me, those who take action for those in crisis and those who reach beyond borders to build a more resilient, peaceful world.

The CARE Package® has changed, too - from providing to empowering. As the world now contends with another unprecedented crisis, we are marking this 75th anniversary by showcasing the evolution of CARE's work and our impact in the world. While much in the world has changed over 75 years, we want to recognize the universal ideals that started it all for CARE: generosity, solidarity, compassion.

A community health worker with a group of women in Bangladesh. Photo: Cesar Lopez/CARE
A community health worker with a group of women in Bangladesh. Cesar Lopez/CARE

For 75 years, CARE has worked worldwide to change lives, defeat poverty, and achieve social justice by empowering women and girls. We work on the front lines of humanitarian crises and tackle the underlying causes of poverty to create transformative change. With a bedrock of national staff and a strong network of local partners and supporters, we have deep connections and impact in more than 100 countries.

Our vision—one of hope, inclusion, and social justice, where all people of all genders live in dignity and security—faces an unprecedented global threat. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been, and will continue to be, terrible for individuals, communities, and countries – particularly women and girls. Yet, the crisis provides our global community with a unique opportunity to build a gender-just future. We are seizing this moment, this opportunity, to create a more equal world. A world in which women are able to lead because they are safe, healthy and have a dignified livelihood. Because the world is better when women lead, too.

The devastating situation in India is our newest reminder that only global solidarity will defeat COVID-19, for none of us are safe until all of us are safe. A donation will help Indian families access emergency health care services and supplies, including hospital beds, medical oxygen, lifesaving medicine, and personal protective equipment. It will also provide community supports in the local vaccination campaigns across India.

Not since World War II, when CARE got its start, has the world faced a global crisis of this proportion. Over time, we've learned to put women and girls at the center of our work, for we cannot overcome poverty until all people have equal rights and opportunities. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens decades of progress at decreasing inequality and improving health and livelihoods for millions, particularly women and girls. As a global community, we must recoup these losses, in part by giving women what they need to be leaders in their communities.

For 75 years, caring, thoughtful people like you have reached beyond borders to show care and support for those in crisis. I hope you take the time to make a special gift today and give the CARE Package® the world needs now.

Our children and our planet deserve no less.