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A Growing Worldwide Impact

A Tradition of Saving Lives

For more than 70 years, Episcopal Relief & Development has served the needs of underserved and vulnerable people, at home and in many countries around the world.

Originally called the Presiding Bishop's Fund for World Relief (the Fund), the organization was established in 1940 by The Episcopal Church in the United States. Its initial mission was to assist refugees fleeing Europe during World War II. Soon after the war, the agency’s efforts expanded to include additional humanitarian assistance, focusing mostly on disaster relief.

Responding to World Crises

During the 1960s and 1970s, there was a growing awareness in the US of the challenges facing people worldwide, such as hunger, disease and disasters. In response, the Fund set a new emphasis on rehabilitation and development work. With increased funding, the agency took efforts to the next level through establishing a professional organization and expanding programming to incorporate sustainable development. In 1978, a new organizational charter was constituted and accepted. In the 1980s, major contributions supported responses to famine in Ethiopia, an earthquake in Mexico and a volcano eruption in Colombia.

Rebuilding Communities – and Lives

After Hurricane Mitch in 1988, the Fund undertook innovative disaster relief work in Honduras that focused on more integrated community development. Over four years, an entire community was constructed, with 200 houses, a school, a clinic and a church. Micro-finance activities and agricultural projects were launched to create economic opportunities and improve the food supply. The combination of rebuilding and development through micro-finance and other initiatives helped spur economic growth in the devastated region. This integrated approach became a core element of the agency’s disaster relief work.

New Name, New Focus

In 2000, the Fund was renamed Episcopal Relief & Development to emphasize its disaster relief work and its increased programmatic focus on integrated community development. Two years later, Episcopal Relief & Development was incorporated as an independent, 501(c)(3) organization. In 2003, the board of directors decided to shift from administering small grants for domestic and overseas projects to implementing long-term development programs and partnerships worldwide. For a greater global impact, the organization formally endorsed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight benchmarks developed by the international community to reduce extreme global poverty by 2015.

From Adversity to Advantage

In recent years, Episcopal Relief & Development has been involved in several major efforts. NetsforLife®, a program partnership to fight malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, began as a pilot in 2006 and soon was established in a growing number of countries. In 2010, we helped respond to the massive earthquake in Haiti by providing food, medicine and assistance in rebuilding communities. Also that year, the NetsforLife® Inspiration Fund was launched to help raise funds for the malaria initiative. In addition, efforts have been increased domestically with the creation of the US Disaster Program, which supports and equips Episcopal leaders to prepare for and respond to emergencies in communities across the United States.

Shift to Long-term Programs

Today, all of Episcopal Relief & Development’s programs follow an integrated model, implemented through a network of partnerships to support initiatives that:

  • Alleviate hunger and improve food supply
  • Create economic opportunities and strengthen communities
  • Promote health and fight disease
  • Respond to disasters and rebuild communities

Over the last few years, Episcopal Relief & Development’s programmatic reach has extended dramatically. In 2004, we worked in 21 countries, reaching nearly 250,000 people. As of 2013, we are working in approximately 40 countries and have touched the lives of close to 3 million people.

More than 70 years after it began, Episcopal Relief & Development is still saving lives and working to heal a hurting world.

Click here to download a PDF version of our history.

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Resources & Learning

Click below to access our Resource Library and learn more about our efforts around the world.

Resources & Learning