Silver Spring, Maryland, United States …. [Tereza Byrne/Todd Reese/ANN Staff]

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International celebrated its 20th anniversary of providing development and relief assistance worldwide with a special ceremony at the Seventh-day Adventist world church headquarters April 14.

“Over the past 20 years, ADRA has forever changed the lives of tens of millions of people–both the lives of those directly benefiting from our projects as well as the lives of each staff and volunteer who dedicated moments and years of their lives to further the mission of ADRA,” said Charles Sandefur, president of ADRA International. “As we celebrate this anniversary, we’re grateful to each individual, foundation and government who has partnered with ADRA through financial support, prayer, time, and advocacy.”

ADRA has experienced tremendous growth in the past 20 years. In 1984, it had less than 600 staff members worldwide, operations in 75 countries and provided total aid of US$24.7 million. ADRA currently has more than 4,000 staff members worldwide, a presence in 120 countries, and has provided development and relief assistance valued at more than $120 million in 2003, benefiting more than 22 million people. Since 1984, ADRA has been led by Robert R. Drachenberg (1984-1985), Ralph S. Watts Jr. (1985-2002), and Charles Sandefur (2002-present).

“The world we live in is one with continued great need. While we celebrate the achievements of ADRA these past 20 years, we also remain focused and passionate about the task ahead to improve the lives of those in distress and poverty around the globe,” Sandefur said.

Among projects aimed at helping those around the world is a new “Give 20” campaign for rural farmers in Myanmar, also known as Burma. In the Nyuang Oo dry zone region of Myanmar, life is hard. The main source of income is Toddy Palm farming. Toddy Palms are tall trees, some as high as 60 feet, and their leaves produce a syrupy juice that, when boiled and processed, turns into Jaggery. Jaggery is a form of sugar and is used for baking, eating as candy and other treats.

ADRA introduced an innovative energy-saving cooking stove that enables families to heat four pots of Toddy Palm juice at one time. Just US$20 provides all the materials necessary for one family to construct and operate an ADRA energy-saving stove. This is one type of project ADRA has undertaken in many communities around the world.

To commemorate the anniversary of what officially began April 6, 1984, ADRA International has produced a special ADRA-at-a-Glance brochure, featuring its current projects and historical milestones. Free copies may be requested by calling 1-800-424-2372 in North America, or from local ADRA offices.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church began organized international relief activities in 1918, just after World War I, when it sent aid to regions devastated by war. More work was done in Europe, North Africa and Asia following World War II. Because of the increase in disasters and famine, the Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters created the Seventh-day Adventist Welfare Service (SAWS)–later renamed Seventh-day Adventist World Service–in 1956, with the task of strengthening Adventist relief efforts.

As international development activities became more important to its mission, in 1984 the organization was renamed the Adventist Development and Relief Agency to reflect this broader emphasis. Since then, it has provided community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age or ethnicity. Its core portfolio of activities includes food security, economic development, primary health, disaster preparedness and response, and basic education.

Additional information about ADRA can be found at

Image by Image by ANN. Tereza Byrne/ADRA
Image by Image by ANN ANN

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