Charity Profile: Mercy Corps
“Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible,” says Pax Mandable, community giving officer for the global aid agency. Amidst widespread food shortages, growing conflict throughout the world and a dire refugee crisis, Mercy Corps continues to see, and believe in, the good of humanity. This faith in the potential of people has fueled the organization since 1979.
The unimaginable horrors Cambodian refugees faced as they fled the famine, war and genocide of the Cambodian killing fields in the late ‘70s spurred Mercy Corps founder Dan O’Neil into action. In 1979 O’Neil founded Save the Refugees Fund, and the organization raised $1 million to provide aid in Cambodia while directing America’s eyes to the urgency of the crisis.
Renamed Mercy Corps International in 1982, O’Neil partnered with fellow humanitarian Ellsworth Culver. The two men expanded the organization’s efforts into additional countries where they began incorporating long-term solutions to hunger and poverty into their work. Programs spanning agriculture, medicine, access to education, microfinance and more were developed in countries in need. While Mercy Corps’ global programs have transformed lives and communities, its relief assistance continues to define the organization.
Just two days after Haiti’s 2011 earthquake, Mercy Corps was on the ground providing life-saving relief. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, leaving $108 billion of damage in its wake, Mercy Corps provided crucial food supplies, as well as tools to deconstruct houses and re-purpose building materials. This NGO’s ability to adapt and create programs based on local need ensures its lasting and situational aid is of the highest caliber. “Mercy Corps recognizes that without strong policies and best practices in place to support or enhance a community’s well-being, even the best-executed program will have a limited impact,” says Mandable. “We listen closely to our local partners to make sure their voices, concerns and suggestions are heard by key decision makers from Lagos to London, and Wajir to Washington, D.C.”
Mercy Corps’ unifying message is of undeniable importance in this day in age, when neighbors abroad and at home can often feel more like strangers. “We first heard of Mercy Corps a few years ago via our son who visited their Portland offices on a school field trip,” says Elizabeth Petrosian of Burrasca in Portland, Oregon. This year Burrasca is donating to Mercy Corps for Negroni Week. “The work they’re doing made a lasting impression on him. We feel that now more than ever we, as world citizens, need to acknowledge and support a global perspective and the interconnectedness and interdependency of all human beings,” says Petrosian.
In 2014 alone, Mercy Corps’ reach was felt by 42.5 million people. “In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action—helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within,” says Mandable.
Support of that message has found a home in the hearts of many. “The work Mercy Corps is doing on behalf of our human family to lift up vulnerable communities, combat hunger, and aid refugees is just so vitally important we’re happy to support that even in a small way,” says Petrosian.
Story by Emma Mannheimer // Photo courtesy of Mercy Corps