Aid in Small Boxes

In 1996, commemorating 50 years of relief work, CARE gave the Smithsonian its own package

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So CARE began customizing. People could then send Asian packages (with beans, miso and soybean oil), kosher (food sanctioned by Jewish law), and Italian and Greek (with spaghetti and assorted spices). Baby and infant packages were available, as was even a holiday package with a turkey in a can. CARE developed an enviable reputation for reputable delivery. Methods have included reindeer in Finland, camels in Pakistan and elephants in Sri Lanka, as well as more orthodox vehicles.

In the late 1940s CARE introduced packages with tool kits and sewing machines to help people earn incomes and become self-sufficient. In the 1950s CARE sent farm tools to Europe and Asia. It also sent medical equipment and books to many developing countries. In 1966 CARE began phasing out its by then famous packages, although it revives the tradition sometimes, as it did in Bosnia in the 1990s.

In the 1970s CARE helped communities build wells and improve sanitation. In the 1980s it launched primary health care programs, such as oral rehydration therapy for diarrhea victims. Beginning in 1990, CARE has provided family planning services in almost 300 clinics.

Since 1998 CARE has provided shelter and repair materials, helped farmers restore their fields to productivity and assisted with mine awareness and removal programs in Kosovo. CARE managed eight refugee camps in Macedonia, housing 100,000 refugees. It has distributed 80,000 blankets, 40,000 mattresses, 11,000 plastic sheets, 1,000 stoves and 6,500 kitchen sets.

Most recently, CARE has changed its name to Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere and no longer draws only from its American roots. Nine other industrialized countries have founded CAREs under the confederation of CARE International, a global movement reaching 68 developing countries.

Criteria for determining CARE’s presence in countries include per capita gross national product, infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births, death rate of children between ages 1 and 4, life expectancy at birth, nutrition status of vulnerable groups, percentage of population with access to safe water, and literacy and unemployment rates. The term "CARE Package" is a registered trademark, and the organization frowns on its corporate use. However, CARE packages have become a cultural icon, a symbol of generosity worldwide, and a part of the American vernacular. College students receive "care packages" from home during exams, and children at camps dive into "care packages" of brownies their moms have sent.

A 1962 note accompanying the Smithsonian’s package sums it up well: "It is the hope of all Americans everywhere that our efforts of sharing our bountiful food supply will be an encouragement to free people all over the world."

by Carolyn Hughes Crowley


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