BOSTON — The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) might be responsible for standing outside department stores ringing sleigh bells at Christmas time, but the work that they do reducing global poverty is just as memorable.
The SAWSO was founded in 1977 as a complimentary branch of the Salvation Army’s global services, with the specific goal of finding lasting solutions to poverty around the world. Their focus on individuals is what makes them stand out from other organizations. Through sustainable programs that help improve living conditions, increase productivity and instill self-confidence, the SAWSO works to tap into each person’s potential and help people help themselves.
Thanks to the Salvation Army’s global presence and influence, the SAWSO has at least 940,000 officers located around the world. Because of the size of the organization, the SAWSO can leverage its sheer manpower, resources and connections to help achieve their goals. Partnerships with local communities, outside donors, various U.S. government funding agencies and other NGOs, allow the SAWSO to make significant progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals laid out by the United Nations.
The SAWSO works in four main areas: village-based community health programs, income generation programs, reducing human trafficking and disaster relief.
Their first focus area of community health encompasses a wide range of issues. Ranging from reducing HIV/AIDS, to promoting maternal and child health, to providing vaccinations for malaria, to ensuring orphans and vulnerable children have the opportunity to go to school instead of being forced to work, these examples only represent a small portion of their work. The one common thread tying everything together is SAWSO’s focus on community-wide participation and local capacity building in order to create sustainable, long-term solutions.
Their second focus area of income generation largely revolves around skill training and microfinancing. By developing training programs and offering small loans to individuals launching local businesses, the SAWSO helps to turn initial investments into steady incomes for those in need. These programs are further supplemented through education programs on saving money and utilizing bank accounts in order to later invest in self-sustaining practices, like farming and raising livestock.
Their third focus area of reducing human trafficking centers around raising awareness. By supporting women’s shelters and other safe havens and holding training seminars on the causes and effects of human trafficking, the SAWSO is able to work with community members in places ranging from China to Ecuador to help eradicate this phenomenon from their neighborhoods.
Their fourth focus area of relief and reconstruction efforts following disasters is probably what the SAWSO is best known for. Name any natural disaster, and odds are people working for the SAWSO were there to help clean up the aftermath. After the 2004 tsunami, the SAWSO was responsible for constructing new homes for 2,000 families in need. In 2010, after an earthquake wreaked havoc in Haiti, the SAWSO helped put together and distribute a quarter of a million prepackaged meals containing staple foods to the areas that were hit hardest. These are only a few examples, but the list goes on.
By utilizing their global presence, massive size and expansive framework, the SAWSO is able to have world-wide influence, in order to help out small communities reduce poverty and create a better future.
– Andre Gobbo
Sources: InterAction, GuideStar, Salvation Army World Service Office
Photo: The Salvation Army