Utahns were there, at least in spirit, when the citizens on a tiny, poverty-wracked village in Indonesia solemnly gathered for a special ceremony. Every man, woman and child in the village - as well as a number of visitors and dignitaries from far away - stood mesmerized during the "Turning on the Faucet Ceremony."Running water had arrived, a gift of labor and love from people around the world, including financial support from Utah, under the auspices of the Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE).
The program that began with the "Original Care Package" (surplus C-Rations to help feed Europeans in the days immediately following World War II) has changed a lot in 42 years. Today, it is a "helping-hand" program that works in 39 Third World and underdeveloped countries, according to regional director Bonnie Long.
"We are all over, providing the means for people to help themselves," she said. "We are not a handout agency, but rather a helping hand."
CARE is a huge, non-sectarian,non-government agency to funnel assistance overseas. When a Third World country is hit by disaster - earthquakes, floods, economic devastation - chances are good that CARE is on the way, with one provision: CARE enters only at the government's invitation.
"When we are invited in," Long said, "we make a several-month evaluation of what's needed and what CARE could contribute. For instance, if a country like Guatemala says, `Our illiteracy level is out of control and we can't meet the needs of educating our children,' we'll study it to see if we can help.
"Then we sign contracts with the appropriate government official. We demand free access, a promise there won't be levies against our personnel and absolutely no intervention from outside our staff unless we ask for it. If the government intervenes, we just fold up our tents and go home, like we did in Afghanistan and Vietnam," she said.
Money for the projects comes from private donations, churches, employee groups and national organizations in nine countries that now operate CARE programs. In Utah, Long said, federal employee groups, the Utah Federation of Women's Clubs and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been supportive on a large scale, and many, many other groups have made contributions. Ninety-six percent of every dollar given goes overseas, she said.
With over 7,000 paid employees worldwide, the group has undertaken thousands of projects.
"Most of the work is in villages, and we insist that the villagers participate so the project becomes theirs and they will sustain it," Long told the Deseret News. "Each project is designed to serve multi-purposes. For instance, a school might also be used as a clinic, for night classes, to teach hygiene or to provide family planning. CARE would help assure a teacher is available, and would monitor the program for about three years."
The problems CARE addresses are "mind-boggling," and Long said one question she answers a lot is: Can we really make a difference? Her answer is "yes." Recently, when floods covered three-fourths of the arable land in Bangladesh (where 120 million people lived in a Wisconsin-sized space), CARE provided the early food that kept the survivors alive. In Ethiopia, she said, "our help is sometimes what got the people through."
What, though, about the problems at home?
"We believe you should help at home. But the difference is, if you're hungry in the U.S.," she said, "there's somewhere you can go, someone who will help you. If you're hungry in a Third World country, in a tiny, no-resources village, hunger can mean death."
Anyone interested in learning more about CARE, or in making a donation, should write CARE, P.O. Box 100-S, San Francisco, CA 94108.