ActionAid has been fighting poverty worldwide for nearly 40 years.
A commitment to communities
ActionAid was founded in 1972 in the UK by businessman Cecil Jackson-Cole as a child sponsorship charity that helped communities (originally called Action in Distress). 88 UK supporters sponsored 88 children in India and Kenya.
During our first decade we established long-term programmes in India, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi and The Gambia, and responded to emergencies in Honduras and Bangladesh. Our work extended from education, to include health, sanitation and agricultural projects to improve living conditions for children and their families.
Tackling the causes of poverty
By the mid eighties ActionAid was reaching over 40,000 children in Asia and Africa, and expanded further by setting up affiliates in Ireland, Italy, France and Spain under the ActionAid name. We began to shift our focus towards tackling the root causes of poverty rather than just meeting people's immediate needs. We began to work with communities to boost agricultural production, improve water supplies, gain access to basic healthcare and find new ways of making a living. We helped poor people organise themselves to challenge injustice and demand their rights from their own governments.
New areas of work
In 1987 we funded a new organisation in Uganda, called the AIDS Support Organisation, the beginning of a major area of work on HIV and AIDS.
By 1990 ActionAid was working in over 30 countries, helping people get healthcare, education, water and livelihoods.
In the mid 1990s, after pilot projects in Bangladesh, El Salvador and Uganda, ActionAid launched Reflect, our pioneering adult literacy tool. Its success rate means it is now used by over 500 organisations, in over 70 countries. In 1998 we expanded our work to include peace building and conflict resolution in Africa and lobbying financial institutions such as the World Trade Organisaiton.
A truly international organisation
In 2003 we launched ActionAid International, headquartered in South Africa, and working towards giving all our country programmes an equal say in how the organisation works. The new structure makes real our commitment to accountability to the people, communities and countries we work with, and makes us more effective in fighting and eradicating poverty.
By the end of the decade, we were helping 25 million people in over 40 countries with their own fight against poverty, and linking their voices with the powerful. For example, in 2005 ActionAid's Get On Board bus travelled from Johannesburg to the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland taking messages directly from some of the poorest people in Africa to the leaders of the world's richest nations.