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Twenty years young, and growing!

International non-profit organization Africare celebrates 20 years in the Howard/Shaw community.

WASHINGTON , D.C  At first glance, the old boarded-up school house appeared to buckle under the weight of neglect.  Once a former elementary school, the building standing at 440 R. Street, NW would become the new headquarters of an International nonprofit organization working in Africa.

The building was purchased in 1981 from a public auction for $159,000 cash, but rather than taking out bank loans, the driven homeowners-to-be drafted a campaign to generate nearly $2 million needed to fix, furnish and equip their new Headquarters.  After five years of renovations, the ambitious team christened their new home "Africare House" in October of 1987.

"The location is symbolic," noted Africare's first President and co-founder, C.Payne Lucas.  "We wanted Africare House to capture the sprit and essence of Africa ; so we built the institution in the inner city, somewhere African Americans could feel and relate to it, and feel proud of it. It became a community building.  It was a place where people engaged in conversations about Africa and ideas about Africa how to make Africa work."   

Founded in 1970, Africare was established in the midst of a severe drought that impacted more than 25 million people across 6 countries in Western Africa .  The drought sparked a wide-spread food crisis, and called the attention of a small group of African and American leaders and development specialists to address the rising needs of hunger and malnutrition felt across the region.  Niger would be the first nation to work with Africare and respond to the needs of its people through emergency humanitarian assistance.  That assistance would later spread into every region in Sub-Saharan Africa.  

Africare permanently incorporated in Washington , D.C. May of 1971.  Here, the embryonic organization operated out the basement of one of its founder's homes before moving into several borrowed rooms within the Embassy of Niger.  When the space became too tight, dynamic growth carried Africare from the embassy to rented office space on 16th Street, and then to Connecticut Avenue.  After ten explosively productive years, Africare was ready to move into Africare House at long last.

"We applaud the idea of a center embracing Africa as a whole in the capital city of the United States," endorsed then dean of the African Diplomatic Corps who spoke at the official opening of Africare House. 

Africare's founders developed the nonprofit organization with three goals in mind:  1) To support development and relief efforts across 2) the entire continent of Africa while 3) serving as a bridge between Africans and Americans, especially African Americans.  Today, Africare has become a definitive link in a broad-based African/American development partnership:  Africare House is the home to monthly ANC2 community meetings for the Howard/Shaw community, and for the United States' African Ambassadors.  Furthermore, Africare has given local communities the opportunity to connect with a vibrant and vital force on the African continent&emdash; an organization which has instituted over 2000 projects, reaching millions of beneficiaries, in every major region on the continent since 1970.

"Africare takes a 360-degree approach to development," noted Africare's second and reigning President Julius E. Coles. "We address needs in Food Security, Health, Water and Sanitation, and Emergency Assistance in the most rural locations on the continent.  Our work begins where the tarmac ends.  And one of our goals operating out of Washington , D.C. is to connect U.S. communities that are concerned about international development with African communities overseas."     

Initially, Africare staff consisted of a handful of employees with a budget just under $40,000; today it exceeds 1,000 international and local staff, with an operating budget of over $40 million annually-- in large part due to the donations of concerned individuals in the U.S.

As a 'thank you' to Africare friends of past and a 'hello' to future friendships, Africare will host an open-house 'Block Party' at the end of October at the Africare House at 440 R. Street NW in Washington, D.C.  The family-friendly gathering will provide visitors with a chance to experience the international culture of Africare House and with food and entertainment, and an opportunity to learn about the important initiatives that Africare is implementing on the continent.

For more information, please contact Nicole Eley, Media Relations Manager at