Oxfam America is a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice. Oxfam saves lives, develops long-term solutions to poverty, and campaigns for social change.
In 1942, a group of Quaker intellectuals, social activists, and Oxford academics formed the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief in response to the plight of refugees in Greece. After the war, Oxfam (a name derived from its postal code abbreviation) continued its work, sending materials and financial aid to groups aiding poor people throughout Europe. As the situation in Europe improved, Oxfam’s attention shifted to the needs of people in developing countries.
A group of volunteers founded Oxfam America in 1970 in response to the humanitarian crisis created by the fight for independence in Bangladesh. Oxfam Great Britain provided a loan for the group, and at first Oxfam America funneled funds exclusively through Oxfam Great Britain. Originally located in Washington, DC, Oxfam America relocated to Boston in 1973, where its small staff worked out of a borrowed room in a West Newton church basement.
In 2010, Oxfam America celebrated its 40th anniversary. While the organization today is a very different place—one that has grown and changed to address both the times and the changing needs of developing countries—several things have remained steadfast: the commitment to addressing issues of injustice and poverty, and the set of core values that has informed our work—legacies passed down through three decades of staff and board members.
Oxfam believes that poverty is wrong, and its approach to "righting" this wrong involves four broad categories: saving lives, developing programs to help people overcome poverty, campaigning for social justice, and changing how people think about poverty.
Oxfam works to address the root causes of poverty by addressing immediate needs in a community first, then shifting its business model to support community-based approaches that change people's lives in a lasting way.
Fighting hunger has been a core program area for Oxfam since inception. In 2011-2012, Oxfam worked on several important initiatives involving hunger, food security, sustainability, and justice.
- Following the largest public appeal in its history, Oxfam and its partners were able to help 2.8 million people in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia during the East Africa food crisis.
- In Vietnam, more than one million growers are using the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) on nearly 500,000 acres. Oxfam continues to support farmer training with the nation's ministry of agriculture, and in 2012, the government requested that Oxfam's associate country director make formal recommendations for restructuring Vietnam's agriculture sector.
- In the tobacco fields of North Carolina, farm workers experience subpoverty wages, nicotine poisoning, heat stroke, and live in deplorable conditions. Following Oxfam's request to online supporters, in which more than 14,000 people called on RJ Reynolds to meet with farmworkers, the CEO held the first face-to-face meeting with The Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) in June 2012.
Oxfam manages offices on five continents, and through the Oxfam Condeferation, 17 sister organizations work collaboratively in more than 90 countries. Fiscally responsible, 78% of its revenue goes to program services.
Oxfam's Behind the Brand campaign is in full swing, and you can get involved today! Most of your favorite food brands are owned by only a handful of companies, and they can all do better to improve the food system and the lives of the workers they employ.