For a long time, I only knew The Salvation Army for the thrift stores and the bell ringers that we see around the holidays. What I didn’t know until more recently is that they impact lives both here at home and around the world through the Salvation Army World Service Organization (SAWSO).

SAWSO has spent over 40 years helping people across 131 countries improve their circumstances, maintain their health and gain financial independence. The charity’s vision is to serve as a dedicated resource committed to responding to the global interests of The Salvation Army USA by:

  • Developing sustainable solutions for poverty, disease and despair in global communities.
  • Cultivating increased organizational capacity within the Salvation Army units worldwide.
  • Introducing sustainability models that grow financial independence.
  • Demonstrating an empowering culture of grace and trust toward everyone served.

The central theme of their work is to encourage long-term sustainability and emphasize local ownership. Instead of temporarily housing and feeding those affected by poverty, they empower individuals to feed and shelter themselves. They heal the sick and prevent future illness. They help restore communities affected by disaster and strengthen them against future misfortune. They provide victims of abuse safe transition to a whole life.

Investing in people around the world for a better future
There are hundreds of examples of how SAWSO does their work in communities worldwide. Here are just a few:

  1. Alleviating wildfire damage in Australia
    Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the world had its eyes on the devastating wildfires in Australia that spread over millions of acres in late 2019 and early 2020. Immediately, SAWSO facilitated international donations for the emergency response at the local centers in Australia. Food, water and other support were sent to firefighters and those who lost their homes.

    Even though the fires are no longer burning, families and communities affected by the fires are still suffering. SAWSO has been able to help over 500 families, and the charity continues to offer support by assessing community needs and issuing grants. SAWSO knows that the right investments can empower the community to regain their strength and independence – the work currently being done will ensure that they are left well equipped for a better future.

  2. Empowering those they serve in Uganda
    Many people have been forced to flee violence and unrest in South Sudan, often seeking refuge in Uganda. There they have found safety – but unfortunately, the refugee camps did not provide ideal living conditions. It quickly became clear that the conflict in South Sudan would not be resolved soon and the refugees would need long-term solutions for the camp.

    SAWSO and The Salvation Army’s International Emergency Services were able to improve conditions in the camps by empowering those that lived there to execute new strategies. One such strategy aimed to improve sanitation and hygiene by installing latrines – and hiring refugees to make it happen.

    The latrines improved the community by advancing overall health, giving residents the opportunity to make a fair wage and increasing their independence. Now, there’s one latrine for every two families, and they’re planning on doubling that number.

  3. Protecting survivors in Mexico
    In Tijuana, many fall victim to human trafficking, forced labor and modern day slavery. Young women, recent deportees and rural villagers that come to Tijuana looking for opportunities are especially at risk.

    SAWSO’s anti-trafficking advisors and partners help local Salvation Army offices provide shelter and safety to survivors, as well as preventative measures for those at risk. They help women and children plan to rebuild their lives so that when they leave, they have the confidence and tools to pursue safe opportunities. The shelter near the San Diego border alone has benefitted mothers and children from 17 countries, providing them with physical safety, comfort and emotional support.

  4. Encouraging women’s independence in Kenya 
    Due to a variety of obstacles such as early marriage, women in rural Kenya often struggle to become financially independent. Men are commonly the sole provider for their families, so if a woman loses her husband, she often also loses her support and financial security. In order to help women avoid poverty, SAWSO’s WORTH program teaches financial literacy skills and provides microfinance banking training.

    The WORTH participants make small deposits into a shared fund that is monitored by their elected leaders, and when the fund grows large enough, the women can take out loans. They use the loans to purchase supplies and start businesses, generating their own income.

    WORTH brings women together to teach and learn financial skills, serving as a both banking system and a place for emotional support. The SAWSO program provides a network for mentorship among the entrepreneurial women, leaving them to continue finding success in mutual support of each other.

Unique solutions for each situation
Those are just four examples of how SAWSO provides international relief – there are many more programs like these helping people in over 100 countries. SAWSO connects Salvation Army centers around the world to share knowledge and resources so that each can be as effective as possible.
Each project and program is unique to the location and circumstance. The charity continues to meet global needs with their three-step process:

  1. Assessing the needs in each community to understand the specific challenges.
  2. Building a program to provide immediate relief and short-term care first. Once urgent needs are met, the program is built to encourage long-term growth within the community.
  3. Investing in the community through local programs that provide service and guidance, helping the local community ensure that the program is as effective as possible.

How you can help
You can learn more about SAWSO’s successful programing and how your support helps around the world in their 2020 Annual Report.

Here are some ways to get involved: 

  • Workplace giving programs. If your organization hosts an employee giving campaign, plan to make a difference by giving to SAWSO with simple payroll pledges and check to see if your workplace matches gifts. It’s the most convenient way to reach communities in need.
  • Lend your voice. Spread awareness and help others learn more about the organization behind the bell. Share this blog post on social media and follow SAWSO on Facebook and Twitter.

The stories above are examples of how the right short-term investments create long-term results, ensuring that those who need help receive it and that they are poised to continue helping themselves. When you support SAWSO, you’re investing in the global community and people around the world for years to come. Reach out to us today to learn more.