Our history

CARE’s history in Timor-Leste

CARE in Timor-Leste is one the largest international non-government organisations in Timor-Leste. CARE currently has nearly 250 staff working in Dili and the municipalities.
CARE has been operating in Timor-Leste since 1994, originally as part of CARE Indonesia and, after Timor-Leste’s independence in 2000, as an independent Country Office. In 2008, CARE International in Timor-Leste management moved from CARE Canada to CARE Australia, CARE Australia continues to hold management oversight of CARE in Timor-Leste. 
With a focus on long-term sustainable development projects and humanitarian response, CARE’s work has focused on projects in agriculture and disaster risk reduction, education, community health and nutrition, sanitation, capacity building, urban community outreach and peace-building, rural infrastructure and employment, and women’s participation and gender equality.
CARE engaged in the three major emergency responses following the violent outbreaks that occurred in 1999 and 2006, the El Nino response from 2014-2017 and the flood response in April 2021. CARE continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Following the 2006 crisis in Timor-Leste, CARE responded to the needs of people who fled their homes to camps in Dili by providing support to camp managers, humanitarian coordination, water trucking, child protection activities and community outreach in neighbourhoods particularly affected by violence. 
Since 2008, CARE has implemented more than 100 development and humanitarian projects with more than 44 partners with support from global donors and supporters. This includes our long-term education project, Lafaek Learning Media. This nationally regarded magazine was first designed in 2000, with first distribution in early 2001. The Lafaek Learning Media project now includes an online component and four nationally distributed magazines for students, teachers and community members, reaching 47% of the Timorese population. Find out more about the Lafaek Learning Media project.
  • Sexual Reproductive and Maternal Health and Rights
  • Women’s Economic Empowerment
  • Women’s Voice
  • Education
  • Disaster preparedness and emergency response
CARE was founded in 1945 in the United States to respond to millions in need of food and relief supplies at the end of World War II. 22 U.S. charity organisations of civic, religious, cooperative and labour backgrounds came together as the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, with an initial focus on providing CARE packages. Shortly thereafter CARE Canada was founded in 1946 to support the relief efforts. The first 15,000 packages arrived in Le Havre, France, in May 1946. Initially containing food, the package was expanded to include diverse culture diets as well as non-food items including tools, blankets, school supplies and medicine. Over the course of the next two decades 100 million more packages were delivered.
With Europe on the road to recovery, CARE turned to providing its growing expertise in relief to disasters and post-war recovery in other parts of the world. By the early 1950s, operations had been established in a number of Asian and Latin American countries, followed by Africa in the early 1960s.

CARE at this time also began providing medical services and setting up pioneering primary health care programmes. In most places around the world where humanitarian relief was required, CARE was there, working alongside communities to provide life-saving assistance and to begin rebuilding.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, CARE expanded its activities beyond immediate and short-term relief to more long-term assistance in the form of recovery and rehabilitation. While CARE continued to respond with food distribution in the wake of disasters and emergencies, it also began to support communities to rebuild their livelihoods, focusing increasingly on long-term food security and sustainable farming programmes.


CARE increasingly began taking a ‘rights-based’ approach to development – recognising that poverty is often caused by the absence of rights, opportunities and assets, due to social exclusion, marginalisation and discrimination.
CARE also started focusing on women’s empowerment, recognising from our decades of poverty-fighting experience that women are key: by empowering women, entire families and communities can be lifted out of poverty. Throughout this evolution, CARE continued responding to countries in crisis, from the civil war in Rwanda to the Gulf Wars. 

CARE also began expanding its membership, with 8 new members founded (Australia, Denmark, Germany, France, Japan, Austria, Norway and UK), as well as an umbrella organisation, CARE International (CI), forming a global confederation. In 1993 CARE was re-registered as Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere.


In the first part of the new millennium, CARE applied its time-tested capabilities in emergency relief and recovery to a series of major crises, including the Asian tsunami, earthquakes in Pakistan and Indonesia, and the displacement of more than 2.5 million people in the war-torn region of Darfur, Sudan.

During this time, CARE solidified its position as a leader in areas such as agriculture, education with a focus on girls, health and community well-being, small-scale entrepreneurial activities, such as village savings and loans, improving water sanitation and hygiene, and putting women’s empowerment at the centre of our approach to defeat poverty.

CARE increasingly began to strengthen its approach to partnership and advocacy, and to focusing on achieving long-term sustainable change and global impact. Raks Thai, CARE Netherlands, CARE Peru and CARE India became members in this period, expanding CARE’s global membership base and prompting reflections about a more diverse model for the future.



More than seven decades later, CARE has evolved to become one of the largest poverty-fighting organisations in the world, working with a wide range of partners and allies to address global inequality within and between countries.

In 2012, CARE developed its CARE 2020 vision outlining its ongoing role and relevance for the future, and in 2013 began a transformational change process to realise that vision.
CARE continued to evolve and become more diverse, working together with partners in more than 90 countries to have an impact on poverty and injustice.