A Short History of Tearfund

It is 1960. The Cold War is in full swing and John F Kennedy is elected to the White House.  

It is also a year when 40 million people worldwide are made refugees by war or disaster.

Coverage of the worldwide suffering sparks a spontaneous outpouring of compassion among UK Christians. Many people send money to the Evangelical Alliance (EA), who were not involved in overseas aid or development work.

They establish a fund to distribute the cash they are receiving. The money is sent to existing evangelical agencies around the world who are already caring for the needs of refugees around the world.

In 1967, former curate George Hoffman is hired to develop the fund’s work further.

Tearfund is born

Then on 29 May 1968, George and members of the Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund Committee, meet for the first time. They determined to marry Christian compassion with practical action in the work of this fund.

Together, they quickly establish a vision for the new organisation which is to be called Tearfund.

Publicity materials for the Tearfund include hard-hitting images and provocative messaging. Tearfund is propelled onto the Christian stage, urging a new, radical understanding of the Gospel as good news to the poor, with an emphasis caring for their physical and spiritual needs.


Early Tearfund management

Tearfund’s fresh outlook proves attractive to singer Cliff Richard, who in 1969 performs two concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in support of Tearfund. Cliff goes on to become a long term supporter.

Tearfund’s income grows each year and in 1973 it becomes a registered charity. By now 80 per cent of its aid is allocated to longer term development projects.

Preparing for the worst

In 1988 – Tearfund’s 20th anniversary – the first post dedicated to responding to disasters is created. Tearfund goes on to pioneer new thinking about how to help reduce the risk of being affected by disasters.

The establishment of a Disaster Response Unit follows in 1994. It’s a key milestone in Tearfund’s development.

Within six months the unit is pressed into service, responding to the Rwandan genocide, where 800,000 people are brutally killed. Tearfund staff are sent to help thousands of refugees in Tanzania and Zaire who have fled the carnage.

But the biggest test for Tearfund’s disasters strategy comes with the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. Together with partner organisations, Tearfund helps 700,000 survivors in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Somalia.


Tearfund logo circa 1980s

The Long Haul

When a massive earthquake rocks Haiti in 2010, Tearfund again demonstrates its determination to go to areas others have not reached and stay  and to stay for the long haul. Unprecedented public support fuels long-term reconstruction work, bringing hope to shattered remote communities.

Today Tearfund is among the UK’s top ten emergency relief agencies, commanding a respected reputation built on good practice and years of experience helping people in some of the world’s most challenging places.

Cutting Edge

God’s direction over Tearfund’s development can be seen in the innovative ways in which it has responded to injustice over the years.

Regular campaigning work about injustice earns Tearfund a reputation for being a voice for the voiceless. They played a key role in the campaign to cancel overseas debt for millennium in 2000, the Make Poverty History campaign in 2005 and the If campaign in 2013.

Long-term development remains at the heart of Tearfund’s work. For decades now, Tearfund has been building partnerships with local churches around the world. The partnership with the local church has helped them get to the very heart of communities and bring change far more effectively.


Pentecostal church in Africa
Around the world, the local church is at the heart of our work