Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.
World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.
"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.
"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.
The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."
Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.
Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.
Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.
Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.
The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.
But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.
Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.
"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.
Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.
From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.
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While childcare challenges facing women in the workplace have come under the spotlight during the pandemic, the issue isn't new. As one of the only nations in the world without guaranteed paid parental leave as well as one without broadly subsidized childcare, parents often have to weigh childcare costs with their earnings and make tough choices between work and family.
In academia, where graduate students are working toward a career but aren't fully into one yet, figuring out how to balance family and studies on a limited income is also a challenge, which is why one MIT professor's photo of an addition to his lab has people cheering.
Troy Littleton, professor of biology at MIT, shared a photo of a portable crib squeezed in between a desk and a cabinet and wrote:
"My favorite new equipment purchase for the lab – a travel crib to go in my office so my graduate student can bring her 9-month old little girl to work when necessary and I get to play with her while her mom gets some work done. Win-win!!"
My favorite new equipment purchase for the lab – a travel crib to go in my office so my graduate student can bring… https://t.co/y67A78h6ei— Troy Littleton (@Troy Littleton)1620417958.0
A flood of comments praising the professor poured in, as people shared how their own professors or bosses had similarly supported them and their children.
@heatherfarmer__ @JTroyLittleton Mine did the same! And got slightly annoyed when we found daycare. :)— Dr Hanne (not that type of doctor - no seriously) (@Dr Hanne (not that type of doctor - no seriously))1620470113.0
The praise reinforced the fact that pursuing a profession and building a family are not mutually exclusive endeavors and that creating ways to help parents—especially mothers, who tend to be the primary caregivers during the earliest years of a child's life—balance both things is a valuable move. While bringing a baby to work wouldn't work under all circumstances, allowing for the option when it can work can make all the difference in the world.
@Dr_Perreault @JTroyLittleton It takes a village to raise a baby!! 💪🏻💪🏻— Jules (@Jules)1620491280.0
Interestingly, sprinkled throughout the comments of praise were comments of befuddlement from people outside of the U.S. Questions like "Don't you have paid leave when you have a baby?" and "You mean there aren't free childcare facilities on-site?" from Europeans, Australians, etc. brought home the fact that this childcare/career conundrum is largely a uniquely American thing.
@ferruz_noelia @JTroyLittleton You're not an American, are you?? (University-provided daycare at my university cos… https://t.co/HuMUFJBiGL— la.donna.pietra (@la.donna.pietra)1620494526.0
Like many "feel good" stories of individuals stepping up to fill a hole where a social safety net should be, professor Littleton's post almost seems a bit sad in light of these comments. It would be great if we could structure our systems to be more family-friendly as a matter of policy. At the same time, his offering a way for his student to continue her studies while taking care of her baby illustrates a sense of understanding and compassion our society needs more of.
Thank you, professor Littleton, for serving as an example and opening people's minds to what is possible.
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.
Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.
Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.
Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash
The international nonprofit
CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.
"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."
Nunn believes a comprehensive vaccination program needs to be sufficiently funded to not only acquire enough vaccines to inoculate people who may be missed otherwise, but also to ensure transportation, delivery, and administration of the vaccines. For every $1 in supply, $5 is required for delivery costs, she says.
"2021 finds us at a crossroads. One road leads from pandemic to endemic – and what some may see as 'acceptable apathy' where the lives of the vulnerable in low-income countries are deemed less valuable... "The other road is built on understanding the true cost of vaccines and the human cost of failing to deliver vaccines to the most vulnerable, and a joint commitment by all who walk it together to equity, equality, and human dignity. Our destination is a place where each of us is safe because all of us are safe," says Nunn.
The best interests of everyone on the planet are served by an investment in comprehensive global vaccination. For 75 years, CARE has been doing lifesaving work in the global community—and while the fight against Covid is far from over, the organization invites everyone to commemorate just how far we've come.
On Tuesday, May 11, CARE will host An Evening With CARE with Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others, to mark the 75th anniversary of this amazing organization and take stock of the work that lies ahead. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.
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