When a community lifts itself out of poverty, everything changes. Poverty does more than exhaust, starve, trap and kill people. It destroys their sense of worth, limits their horizons, robs people of the chance to reach their full potential. Tearfund’s call is to serve where the need is greatest. They long for new life and a new sense of worth for people. They work through local churches, ready to care for the whole person – and the whole community – inside and out.
Quickly, powerful images, striking design and provocative messaging characterise publicity materials have propeled Tearfund onto the Christian stage, urging a new, radical understanding of what it means to bring good news to the poor, caring for their physical as well as spiritual needs.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Tearfund is called to show this compassion repeatedly during some of the world’s darkest moments of disaster, such as the Cambodia refugee crisis. In 1988 – Tearfund’s 20th anniversary – the first post dedicated to responding to disasters is created and over time pioneering new thinking emerges about how to help reduce people’s risk of being affected by disasters.
The establishment of a Disaster Response Unit follows in 1994. It’s a key milestone in Tearfund’s development, revealing an increasing desire to go the extra mile to provide help where it’s most needed. Within six months the unit’s in action, responding to one of history’s worst episodes of inhumanity – the Rwandan genocide, where 800,000 people are brutally killed. Tearfund staff are sent to help thousands of refugees in Tanzania and Zaire who’ve fled the carnage.
The need for disaster expertise is underlined to deadly effect in the early years of the new millennium. In 2001 a massive earthquake strikes Gujarat in India killing 20,000 people and destroying 400,000 homes. But the biggest test comes after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, where together with partners, Tearfund helps 700,000 survivors in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Somalia.
When a massive earthquake rocks Haiti in 2010, Tearfund once again demonstrates its determination to go to areas others haven’t reached and to stay for the long haul. Unprecedented public support fuels long-term reconstruction work, bringing hope to shattered remote communities. Today Tearfund is among the UK’s top ten emergency relief agencies, commanding a respected reputation built on good practice and years of experience helping people in some of the world’s most challenging places.