Slideshow: Ravished Armenia

Aurora Mardiganian was the first Genocide survivor to receive widespread attention in the United States. Published by the American Committee for Relief in the Near East (later called Near East Relief) in 1918, Aurora’s bestselling autobiography introduced thousands of Americans to one girl’s heartbreaking story of survival.

Slideshow: Jackie’s Million-Dollar Campaign

At just nine years old, silent film actor Jackie Coogan became the original celebrity humanitarian. In 1924, the child star traveled across the country to raise one million dollars for Near East Relief.

Slideshow: The New Near East Magazine

Near East Relief began producing the New Near East magazine in 1919 as a way to keep donors informed of developments overseas. The stories featured firsthand accounts from the field, including profiles of relief workers. Although publication was not always regular, the New Near East ran through 1927.

Slideshow: Alice in Hungerland, a Near East Relief Film

Young Esther Razon was living in a Jewish orphanage in Constantinople when she was selected to play the main role in Near East Relief’s 1921 film Alice in Hungerland. The silent film tells the story of an American child who stows away to Constantinople to visit her father, a Near East Relief worker.

Slideshow: Posters and Publications

Near East Relief created vibrant campaign materials to grasp the nation’s attention. Designed by some of America’s top artists, the posters and postcards were decorated with bright colors, captivating images, and memorable slogans.

Slideshow: Learning a Trade

Near East Relief trained orphans so that they would be able to earn a living after graduation at age 16. The orphanage schools offered classes in more than 40 trades. Training programs were based on local needs and resources. Children usually began working half-days at age 12. Older teens worked full days and took classes at night.

Slideshow: Sheltering Children

Near East Relief scrambled to find buildings large enough to adequately house all of the orphans. In the wake of World War I, Near East Relief was able to find everything from former palaces (including the Birds’ Nest Orphanage, above) to inactive Russian army bases. Orphanages were densely packed – the complex at Alexandropol alone housed more than 20,000 children at its peak.


Slideshow: Restoring Health

By 1922 Near East Relief operated 26 hospitals and 48 clinics to care for refugees. Most children arrived at orphanages suffering from severe malnutrition. They also carried the threat of contagious disease. Doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to examine and treat the orphans, helping to the children to reach a state of health that they had never known in their short lives.

Slideshow: Relief After Smyrna

The fire not only destroys an ancient multicultural community. It also marks the ascent of the brutal Kemalist government. Near East Relief workers realize that neither they nor their charges are safe in Kemalist Turkey. Near East Relief organizes a mass evacuation of orphans and refugees to safer territories.