A History of Service

Our History

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) was established in November 1956 by the Seventh-day Adventist Church to provide humanitarian relief and welfare. Originally called Seventh-day Adventist Welfare Service or SAWS, the name was changed to Seventh-day Adventist World Service in 1973.

By 1958, SAWS reported relief shipments to 22 countries with a total value of about $485,000. Four years later, the number of countries had increased to 29, with a total value of $2.3 million in shipments. During this period, countries benefited included those in South America and the Middle East, sites of major disasters.

By the mid-1970s, the organization began to broaden its mission from disaster relief into programs leading to long-term development. In 1983 SAWS underwent yet another name change to better reflect its overall mission and activities, becoming the "Adventist Development and Relief Agency" (ADRA).

ADRA's work grew rapidly with major programs in several countries emphasizing community development, food distribution, institutional development, and ongoing disaster relief. From an initial worldwide staff of approximately 600, ADRA's activities soon included: building health clinics in Africa, assisting hurricane victims in Central America, teaching hygiene and health to children in Asia, and promoting awareness of worldwide humanitarian needs through ADRA's Global Village in the United States.

ADRA is currently one of the leading non-governmental relief organizations in the world. In 1997 the agency was granted General Consultative Status by the United Nations, a unique opportunity giving ADRA added voice in the international community. In 2004 it assisted nearly 24 million people with more than US$159 million in aid. More than 4,000 ADRA staff members currently work in 125 countries. As new challenges and needs arise, ADRA continues to strive to realize its mission of reflecting God's love through compassionate acts of humanitarian service.