Throwback Thursday: The original care package

I recently came across the phrase: ‘hurt people hurt people’. Without knowingly carrying out research, I’ve found this to be true.

Thankfully, we are prevented from living lives which constantly alternate between terror and trauma because there are people in the world who do not repay hurt with hurt. These people cheerfully interrupt the vicious cycle by showing love.

Which brings me to this week’s Throwback Thursday gift, the CARE package.

Care Package | Laughing Heart

In late 1945, when much of Europe was broken and barely recovering from the Second World War, an organisation called CARE, the Co-operative for American Remittances to Europe was formed. Made up of an host of different charities, CARE provided food to those starving and displaced by conflict in Europe.

It was officially established by President Harry S. Truman, after receiving pressure from the American people who wanted to provide poor relief to those suffering.

Americans paid $10 and a care package was assembled and sent on their behalf, originally to family members living in Europe. Donations and demands increased to the point where Americans could donate a package to a stranger.

Some packages were addressed to ‘a hungry occupant of a thatched cottage’ and ‘a school teacher in Germany’. The packages were initially made up of food supplies donated by American companies. They were later assembled to include other items like blankets and clothes.

© CARE International

Millions of packages were sent until 1955. Over half of all packages were sent to Germany. The last package was sent to the UK.

Gillian Roberts, 73, from Kent recalls receiving a care package as a child: “We must have gone back to our bombed out bungalow which was still being repaired from the war. Then the absolute joy and disbelief, and I can remember a huge tin of peaches, a bag of flour in a muslin bag, and I think a tin of butter. My grandmother, she just sat in the middle of the floor, just sobbing. We were just opened mouthed.

“It was the thought of somebody being so kind. The impact that it had on us was indescribable. Because my grandmother was crying so much she couldn’t see any logic in it. She said, ‘well it’s from people a long way away, and they realise that we’ve got problems and we need help, and they were kind enough to send it to us.”

During war and after it, ideas of 'otherness' surface. Usually from the mouths of politicians but perpetuated in the media. You hear phrases like 'the enemy', 'the opposition' and 'the bad guys'. The CARE packages demonstrate that strong-minded and loving people were able to recognise human suffering in people just like them, looked past 'otherness' and were moved to do something useful about it.

CARE became CARE International, which now provides life-saving assistance across the world in Syria, Yemen, Ecuador and Nepal to name a few.