Early Years Concern America was founded in Stockton, California in 1972 under the name “Concern for Bangladesh.” The organization was formed by the relatives and friends of the Irish Holy Ghost priests who had previously launched CONCERN, an Irish international relief organization. Father Mike Doheny, C.S.Sp. was inspirational in the early years of the organization’s development for his work with refugees. Renamed CONCERN in 1975, it was again changed to Concern America in 1980.
During those early years, Concern America was focused primarily on aiding refugees: providing food and nutrition programs, literacy projects, and other support in Bangladesh, Thailand, and other parts of the world where upheavals were resulting in large numbers of refugees. The organization would eventually move away from the “direct relief” focus of its Irish counterpart, choosing instead to engage local communities with more long-term development efforts.
The Americas and Africa In 1979, Concern America began its first field project in public health in Tijuana, Mexico. Drawn to those afflicted by the civil unrest in Central America, the organization began its work in the region in 1981 through its support to Salvadoran refugees in Honduras, and in 1982, with Guatemalan refugees who had fled to Mexico. By the end of the '80s, C/A had over two dozen volunteers in five Central American countries, training community members in health care and sanitation. Concern America has also sent volunteers and supported programs in several countries in Africa including Uganda, Sudan, Mozambique, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. In South America, Concern America has worked in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia.
In the U.S., Concern America continues its work through social justice education programs, the sale of handarts made predominantly from the countries where the organization has projects, and leadership formation workshops aimed at bringing together leaders from all walks of life to work for a more just society.