Religious minorities lived as second-class citizens with limited rights under the oppressive rule of the Ottoman government. The once-powerful Empire began its slow decline when territories such as Bulgaria and Serbia sought independence.
The 1910s were a time of global upheaval. Empires collapsed and the world descended into war. Against this backdrop, the Ottoman Empire orchestrated a genocide against its Christian minorities. The American people responded by forming Near East Relief.
Near East Relief launched a fundraising initiative that would change the face of international philanthropy. The organization used words, photographs, graphic design, and the new medium of film to create a truly multimedia campaign. There was an outpouring support from the American people. Near East Relief raised $116 million.
In September 1922, fires tore through the port city of Smyrna, destroying the Armenian and Greek quarters. This disaster was a turning point in Near East Relief's work. Relief workers curtailed operations in Turkey and evacuated approximately 22,000 children to Greece, Syria, Palestine, and the Caucasus.