SAWSO: 40 Years of Empowering Communities


SAWSO: 40 Years of Empowering Communities

By John Funk

Communications Manager Salvation Army World Service Office

40 years.

It’s a milestone. A time to reflect on what God has done through The Salvation Army World Service Office (SAWSO) since our founding in 1977, and a time to look toward the future.

Global poverty, hunger, and illness never rest, and disaster can strike anywhere without warning. Poor access to education can doom a child to a lifetime of poverty and hopelessness, creating a cycle that can continue for generations.

Thanks to the grace of God and the generosity of SAWSO’s donors, people around the world can break that cycle. For the past four decades, we have remained committed to making a difference wherever we can. By acting as a hub between donors and Salvation Army organizations both at home and abroad, SAWSO helps streamline the process of getting aid to those who need it.

It’s not just about offering quick fixes to short-term problems. Our goal is to sustainably empower individuals and their communities. We seek to create sustainable programs that help those in need help themselves. And when the time comes for us to move on, we hope to leave behind stronger, better-educated, financially stable people who are equipped to move forward on their own – and when the day comes, to provide help for their neighbors in need.

Since SAWSO’s founding in 1977 by Col. Ernest Miller and our first grant – a $1 million gift from the United States Agency for International Development – we have expanded our focus to include health and HIV, anti-human trafficking and livelihoods, disaster relief, and education. Our team has traveled the world to oversee and witness firsthand the positive global change made possible by our donors, and ensure resources are used wisely.

SAWSO has come far in the past 40 years. May God bless the next 40 years with continued growth, charity and goodwill worldwide.

Summary of Key SAWSO programs

Health and HIV:

SAWSO supports health programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, partnering with The Salvation Army to provide holistic, quality primary health care and ensure accessibility for families, communities, and individuals in need.

Working as a facilitator, SAWSO helps communities identify and prioritize solutions to their most pressing health needs – from maternal and child health to HIV and non-communicable diseases. We also work to combat the spread of disease with information, vaccination, medication, clinical intervention, and spiritual counseling.

In Sri Lanka, SAWSO supports Salvation Army personnel making community outreach in an area beset with deadly kidney disease, identifying cases early and referring them for life-saving treatment.

In Angola, The Salvation Army is an esteemed partner in a high-profile project to eliminate polio by increasing immunization and conducting surveillance.

In Eastern Uganda, our SCORE Project – funded by USAID – provides services to vulnerable children and families, many of whom are affected by HIV and AIDS.

Disaster Relief and Recover:

Through disaster relief and recovery programs, SAWSO helps communities, families, and individuals respond and recover from disasters and to implement integrated, community-led programs to increase their capability to recover – and to be prepared when catastrophic events strike again in the future.

Over the last 10 years, The Salvation Army World Service Office has provided $89.8 million in support to the victims of disasters such as the Southeast Asian tsunami, the Haiti earthquakes, the Japan tsunami, the Pakistan floods, the Philippines typhoon, the Ebola outbreak, and the most recent earthquake in Nepal.

Livelihoods and Anti-Human Trafficking:

SAWSO believes freedom is the necessary foundation for an individual to experience self-actualization and self-realization and to build a sustainable livelihood. We believe the chains of poverty, destitution, and abuse must be broken in order for one to excel; once freed, one is capable of knowing their value, developing personally, seizing opportunity, and becoming financially sound. We work to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities by helping them acquire the skills and assets they need to be free from oppressive labor, recover from setbacks, and create a better future for the next generation.

Our livelihoods programs encourage individual self-sufficiency through literacy, micro-finance, and business skills training, while empowering communities to identify and solve their own problems.

SAWSO actively seeks to prevent and protect victims of human trafficking with projects that support The Salvation Army’s centers in red light districts around the world. Through skills building, vocational training and income generation, women are given a path to return home, attend school, or earn a living in healthier, more dignified ways.


The Salvation Army World Service Office seeks to support, empower, and equip Salvation Army schools to provide high-quality, holistic, faith-based, and family-focused education for all young people in a safe and secure environment.

SAWSO strives to build the capacity of teachers and staff of Salvation Army schools; to provide education and skills training in safe settings for out-of-school and vulnerable children and youth; to facilitate access to higher education and vocational training for post-secondary students; and to increase community support for education through partnerships between Salvation Army schools and the community.

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