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History

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hrHighlights:

Founded in 1979, Operation USA helps communities alleviate the effects of disasters, disease and endemic poverty by providing privately-funded relief, reconstruction and development aid throughout the world. We offer material and financial assistance to community-based organizations that promote sustainable development, leadership and capacity building, income generating activities, education, health services, and advocacy on behalf of vulnerable people.

In the 35 years since Operation USA was founded, we have delivered over $400 million in aid to more than 100 countries. From the construction of schools in China to the delivery of medical supplies and equipment in Africa to long-term disaster recovery in Haiti and the United States, Operation USA has a rich history of successful programs around the world.

Today, many programs developed throughout Operation USA’s history continue to serve communities around the world. Read on to learn more.

2014
Operation USA continues to support typhoon recovery in the Philippines, focusing long-term recovery projects, including school construction, in the hard-hit community of Guiuan. OpUSA staff members visit Tacloban and Guiuan in January to meet with community partners.

On January 13 Richard Walden is honored with the Hometown Heroes Award from Honeywell Hometown Solutions. The award is given to individuals who improve the lives of others and make their hometowns better places to live and work through long-term dedication, compassion, and the desire to do the right work, right now.

2013
On November 8 Typhoon Haiyan, the largest storm ever to make landfall, devastates The Philippines. Operation USA ships disaster relief supplies to meet immediate needs, including water purification supplies that were pre-staged in Manila. Operation USA CEO Richard Walden visits the country in December to assess recovery needs.

On September 27, floods devastate the Acapulco, Mexico area. Operation USA makes a $25,000 cash grant to restore a school through Ninos En Alegria, a program supporting schools in western Mexico.

On May 20, major tornadoes wreak havoc on Moore, OK and the surrounding areas. Operation USA provides relief supplies including generators, shelter materials and hospital equipment, and makes cash grants to community organizations to aid in recovery.

In partnership with Honeywell Hometown Solutions, Operation USA opens the Honeywell Ibasho House to serve the Elders of Ofunato affected by the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Operation USA ships neonatology equipment to Kono, Sierro Leone–outfitting the country’s first maternal and child health care unit.

Operation USA ships medical equipment to the general hospital in Gisenyi, Rwanda, on the border of war-ravaged Congo.

2012
On October 22, Superstorm Sandy begins its path of devastation across the northeastern United States. Operation USA sends emergency and cleaning supplies to New York and New Jersey, and makes cash grants to local clinics to aid in long-term recovery.

On August 21, Hurricane Isaac causes widespread flooding in Louisiana. Operation USA responds with emergency supplies provided to a local social services partner.

Operation USA begins construction on the Honeywell Ibasho House, in partnership with Honeywell Hometown Solutions, to aid the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Operation USA continues to support a feeding program at Ecole Nationale JM Henriquez in Jacmel, Haiti.

2011
On May 22, a devastating multiple-vortex tornado strikes Joplin, MO and crushes nearly a third of the city. Operation USA sends shelter supplies, clothing, flashlights and radios, then goes on to restore capacity in damaged schools and clinics facing an influx of community members impacted by the storm.

On March 11, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake shakes Japan, resulting in a tsunami that sweeps the northeastern coast. The quake and subsequent tsunami also triggers a catastrophic nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant, the effects of which are felt around the world. Operation USA responds with a shipment of clothing from Gap Brands, and makes a long-term commitment to the community of Ofunato, Iwate.

In March, Ecole Nationale Jacob Martin Henriquez opens in Jacmel, Haiti. Built in partnership with Honeywell, this primary school (Operation USA’s largest project to date) serves hundreds of students who couldn’t otherwise afford to go to school, and supports feeding programs, which ensure children receive a healthy meal each day.

Operation USA ships books to Rwanda’s first public library in partnership with Boeing and RwandAir.

Millions of people are impacted by a humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa as the region faces drought, famine and conflict. Operation USA assesses needs on the ground and focuses on water purification needs in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp and in southern Ethiopia.

2010
In October 2010, Super Typhoon Megi hits the Philippines, inundating much of Manila with water. Operation USA provides ongoing material support to hospital partners.

In Summer 2010, massive flooding impacts as many as 20 million people across southern Asia. Operation USA focuses recovery efforts on a community-led program to strengthen dykes and berms in the Bangla Ichha Union Council, an acutely vulnerable community in southern Punjab, Pakistan.

In March, Operation USA receives a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to convene a conference exploring possible alternatives to refugee camps for displaced persons.

On February 27, a magnitude 8.8 earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit Chile, affecting over two million people. Operation USA focuses recovery efforts on education services, providing a children’s library for a community in transitional homes, and on rebuilding livelihoods, providing local fishermen with tools, boats and engines to resume their economic activities.

On January 12, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastates Haiti, affecting as many as three million people. Operation USA responds rapidly to the disaster, shipping emergency aid by air and sea. During the recovery process, over $5.5 million in donated medical, energy, food and shelter supplies is sent to Haiti.

After the conclusion of the civil war in Sri Lanka, Operation USA remains committed to projects supporting vulnerable populations in the districts that were heavily impacted by the conflict, with a focus on women and children.

Operation USA sends medical supplies to North Korea, followed by a site visit and needs assessment.

2009
In partnership with Honeywell Hometown Solutions, Operation USA opens a reconstructed school outside Chengdu, China. Operation USA also begins a second primary school construction project in Sichuan, while funding the construction of five village clinics near Chongqing.

2008
Following a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in China’s Sichuan province on May 12, Operation USA begins construction of a primary school with support from Honeywell Hometown Solutions.

On April 27, Cylone Nargis devastates Myanmar. Operation USA responds with hand-carried medical supplies and a cash grant to a clinic aiding victims.

Operation USA responds to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka due to intensified fighting from civil war.

Operation USA continues a long-term commitment to Cambodia by supporting new projects, including a livelihood assistance program for women and persons with disabilities, a counseling center for women and children, and a social and mental health services program.

Operation USA responds to Southern California wildfires with supplies and grants to local agencies serving fire victims.

2007
On August 15, a major earthquake hits Peru. Operation USA funds a new water system for a village through a local partner NGO.

In Bangalore, India lack of access to their own latrine causes a drop in school attendance among girls, while lack of access to clean water affects all children in the area. Operation USA works with Honeywell Hometown Solutions to create solutions for clean water systems and the incorporation hygiene education—teaching teachers to educate students in hygiene and cleanliness.

Operation USA re-funds 23 clinics, as well as school and after-school agencies, in the Hurricane Katrina zone of Louisiana and Mississippi, bringing total grants to over $2 million.

Operation USA continues funding recovery projects in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.

2006
On May 27, an earthquake hits Jogyakarta, Indonesia. Operation USA responds with supplies and funding for reconstruction projects.

Operation USA organizes an airlift for a partner agency and provides $1.8 million in supplies to alleviate widespread casualties and damage caused by war in Lebanon.

2005
Following Hurricane Katrina on August 23 and Hurricane Rita on September 18, Operation USA sends 13 truck shipments containing $8 million in disaster response aid to the hurricane-affected Gulf Coast states, making cash grants to community-based clinics and funding mental health programs.

Operation USA sends emergency relief supplies in a 747 cargo jet airlift to Islamabad, Pakistan for earthquake-affected communities. With support from Honeywell, Operation USA repairs a school and a clinic, which supports the needs of amputees following the quake. Operation USA also supplies an ambulance to community partners in Kashmir to help transport women in labor more modern hospital facilities in Islamabad.

Operation USA begins village reconstruction in Kalladi, Sri Lanka. With support from Honeywell Hometown Solutions, houses, water wells, a school and a clinic are rebuilt, the village’s entire fishing fleet of 60 boats is repaired, and necessary fishing equipment is restored.

Following violence and war in Sudan, Operation USA, in partnership with Islamic Relief International and Los Angeles’ Wilshire Boulevard Temple, sends supplies to El Geneina in West Darfur, including school and art supplies, and hygiene items.

In partnership with the City of West Hollywood, Operation USA sends the first of several shipments of medical supplies to Malawi’s largest HIV/AIDS program.

2004
On December 26, an earthquake and resulting tsunami devastate countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Operation USA begins relief efforts resulting in $13 million in air and sea shipments and nearly $3.5 million in funding of clinics, housing, water wells, livelihood grants and post-traumatic stress programs in four countries: Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India.

Operation USA organizes an airlift and provides funds for clinic construction, a women’s health program and assistance to a disabled persons center after a December 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran, which destroyed the city of 80,000 and killed up to 50,000 people.

2001
On June 23, a major earthquake hits Peru. Operation USA sends medical supplies and provides funds to build schools and train teachers to identify and address psychological trauma in children.

On January 26, an earthquake hits Gujarat, India. Operation USA sends two 747 cargo airlifts and makes grants for water purification, clinics and school projects in displaced person camps.

Micro-credit programs in Vietnam supported by Operation USA expand to cover 5,000 women in food production and sales.

Operation USA’s California Community Clinic Support Program expands to 200 nonprofit community clinics statewide.

2000
Operation USA obtains second warehouse space—5,000 sq. ft.—courtesy of the Port of San Francisco.

Operation USA expands medical assistance programs in Cuba with knowledge exchange visits by Cuban and American physicians to both Havana and Los Angeles.

Operation USA completes a number of new programs in Nicaragua including building over 100 homes, six preschools, and five clinics, establishing a post-traumatic stress counseling program, and developing micro-enterprise projects in animal husbandry, handicrafts, bio-gas and small-scale agriculture.

Operation USA expands community-based health care programs in support of Los Angeles area clinics.

1999
On August 17, an earthquake in Turkey kills 10,000 people and destroys 120,000 houses. Operation USA sends a 747 cargo jet with 100 tons of medical relief and makes cash grants to five health projects.

Operation USA expands Nicaragua hurricane recovery programs and opens a full-time country office in Managua.

1998
Operation USA sends hand-carried deliveries of antibiotics to, and performs needs assessments at, three Cuban pediatric hospitals–initiating Operation USA’s Cuba medical assistance program.

Operation USA launches major programs in Central America to aid survivors of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras and Nicaragua, and begins work in the village of Santa Rosa, Nicaragua.

1997
As a member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, Operation USA shares the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and participates in the “Ottawa Process: an International Treaty to Ban Landmines.” Jackson Browne and other major music stars appear at an Operation USA concert in Ottowa, Canada to celebrate the signing of the treaty by 135 countries.

1996
Operation USA represents 160 United States NGOs through InterAction at the United Nations and other global conferences to ban the use of anti-personnel landmines. Then, Operation USA launches a landmine detection technology transfer program, called “Operation Landmine,” with NASA and two U.S. national laboratories to help rid the world of over 100 million anti-personnel landmines.

1995
Operation USA expands the Clinic Emergency Preparedness Training (CEPT) program with 35 Los Angeles-area community medical clinics, including individualized training and non-structural hazard mitigation.

Operation USA expands Vietnam agricultural, public health and medical training programs into two additional districts of Dong Nai Province. Microfinance initiatives provide capital for the first of what will be 5,000 small loans to women in Dong Nai.

1994
On January 17, the Northridge Earthquake hits Los Angeles. Operation USA responds with food, baby formula, diapers, antibiotics, clothes, tents and blankets and other relief items, and is asked by the Mayor of Los Angeles to screen relief supply donations offered to the city.

Operation USA sends four medical supply shipments by air and sea to Rwanda, and later funds the rebuilding of a health center in Kibungo Prefecture, in the wake of the Rwandan Genocide.

1993
Operation USA joins with country music stars Clint Black and Wynonna in “Operation Heartland” to assist Midwestern U.S. flood relief and recovery efforts in five states. Concerts are held at the Iowa State Fair, in Houston, and at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre. Grants are made to 25 community groups for health care, education and food security.

1992
Operation USA sends medical aid to crises in Somalia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Iraq and Southern Turkey–aiding victims of the second Gulf War.

1991
Operation USA responds to a succession of major disasters in Bangladesh (cyclone), Costa Rica (hurricane), Peru (earthquake) and the Philippines (typhoon, flooding, volcanic eruption).

Operation USA begins a disaster preparedness training program for community clinics in California.

1990
Operation USA ships relief to victims of the first Gulf War, including Kuwaiti, Iraqi and displaced guest workers’ children. Jordan’s Queen Noor and her foundation become a partner for relief efforts.

1989
On October 17, the Loma Prieta earthquake hits San Francisco, eliciting Operation USA’s first major domestic disaster response. Electric generators, food (contributed by Newman’s Own), bottled water, medicines and diesel fuel are sent to support relief efforts with a focus on community clinics.

1988
Operation California becomes “Operation USA” to reflect the growth in scope of programs.

1987
Operation California continues to expand programs in Southeast Asia and Central America.

1986
After the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos, Operation California begins work in the Philippines, supporting health care and famine relief.

Operation California visits Tibet to assess the needs of public health programs.

Operation California is one of the earliest United States NGOs invited to work in China, and sends $5 million worth of prosthetic joints to 19 teaching hospitals throughout the country.

1985
On September 19, a major earthquake hits Mexico City. Operation California responds with seven airlifts containing medicines and shelter materials, and helps build a permanent clinic for relocated quake victims as part of an integrated community development project co-sponsored by opera star Placido Domingo. Domingo raises Mexico relief funds along with Frank Sinatra, John Denver and Julie Andrews in a major concert at Universal Studios.

Operation California assists USA for Africa with grants management of $17 million in “We Are the World” emergency funds for eight African countries, and coordinates a second Boeing 747 airlift to Ethiopia and Sudan.

1984
In a major relief effort for Ethiopian and Sudanese famines, Operation California–flying the first Boeing 747 cargo jet ever to land at Addis Ababa’s airport–delivers 120 tons of critical medical aid.

Operation California begins work in Nicaragua to alleviate the effects of the “Contra War.”

Operation California is a founding board member of InterAction, a consortium of (now) 200 relief and development agencies.

1983
On April 13, Operation California is honored with the President’s Volunteer Action Award at a White House ceremony, the first international group to be included in the program.

Operation California rebuilds the National Dental School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, sending dental equipment and installation technicians.

Operation California begins long-term support of free community medical clinics in Los Angeles (and later, throughout California).

1982
In June, Operation California sends the first-ever relief flight to Beirut after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

In February, Operation California flies supplies to Poland, and was the first Western relief group to return there since the Soviet-controlled authorities declared martial law in an attempt to crush the Solidarity labor union and a growing independence movement.

1981
In partnership with Oxfam America, Operation California sends a relief flight to Honduras to aid refugees from El Salvador’s civil war.

Operation California arranges sea shipments to Somalia in support of United Nations’ refugee programs, aiding 1.5 million people displaced by the Ethiopia-Somalia war.

1980
Using ‘private diplomacy’ Operation California helps negotiate the Vietnam-US “Orderly Departure Program,” resulting in the safe migration of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese to the United States. Operation California also begins programs in Vietnam supporting clinics and hospitals throughout the country.

In February, Julie Andrews joins our first Board of Directors and hosts a two-hour CBS television special titled “Because We Care,” one of many fundraising events she has since done for Operation California/Operation USA. The TV special featured Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Jane Fonda and 25 other major stars, and benefitted Cambodia’s children.

1979
On Thanksgiving Day, Operation California flies the first international relief airlift to Cambodia since 1975, delivering famine relief after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Actress Julie Andrews and Director Blake Edwards sponsor the airlift.

On July 12, Operation California sends the first relief flight to aid Vietnamese “Boat People” in Malaysia (just 29 days after Operation California is conceptualized)—containing medical, shelter and water supplies and food supplements. A relief airlift to Thailand follows in September, supplying refugee camps along the borders of Cambodia and Laos. More than twelve major companies donate supplies to these efforts, launching Operation California’s corporate in-kind programs.