The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) was established August 26, 1977 as an independent corporation to develop long-term community driven solutions to poverty in the less developed countries where The Salvation Army is active.
In the 1880s, The Salvation Army as a church expanded into developing countries. As a result, it was positioned to provide disaster and emergency relief following events such as famine, flood, and epidemics. By the mid-1890s, services expanded to include education, health and sanitation, development of industries, and agriculture.
In the decade leading up to the formation of SAWSO, The Salvation Army took a more proactive approach, and began working within communities in partnership with the people who lived there, to better understand and identify local needs and resources to develop programs to meet these needs. In this way, communities became more invested in development, and SAWSO’s resources were put to their best, most needed use.
SAWSO was awarded its first U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) grant Sept. 29, 1977. For three years, until 1980, the grant provided resources to improve the capability of The Salvation Army to plan, fund, operate, and manage development projects in the poorest countries of the world.
From 1980 to 1993, with the help of an additional USAID grant that matched Salvation Army funds, SAWSO was able to build a core of leaders, staff, and volunteers. More than $11 million was provided for training in new approaches to development, effective management, and strategic planning in 40 countries.
In more recent years, funding from government grants has decreased, and SAWSO has turned increasingly to creating partnerships with corporate and foundation donors. With the generous support of these organizations, the SAWSO staff continues to provide technical assistance and financial oversight to projects that empower and provide the skills and training for sustaining livelihoods; education and monitoring programs that keep communities healthy; and providing for short-term needs and long-term hope in rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.