Establishment of the agency's new global headquarters in Portland underlines its efforts to fight poverty and create hope for 40 million people.
One of the striking things about Mercy Corps these days is how much the worldwide relief and development organization identifies with Portland, where it is formally opening its world headquarters and action center in a Friday celebration and other events that will take place Thursday through Oct. 16. It's also clear that Portland has begun to understand Mercy Corps, too, and may truly appreciate how much the values of this 30-year-old humanitarian organization and others reflect well on the city.
The Mercy Corps orientation to Portland is obvious in the choices the organization's leaders made in developing the headquarters -- from the decision to recycle a relic of a building rather than build something from scratch and adopting the most forward-looking green standards for the facility, to building in Old Town, thus helping to revitalize the district. Those who are among the best citizens of the world, it turns out, also are exemplary citizens of their own community.
The values reflected in green building, revitalization and such things have become Portland's trademark in recent years. But they are more than civic talking points, they are part of the local culture and identity.
The values inherent in the kind of work Mercy Corps does have become a growing part of this community's core identity as well. This certainly is due strongly to Mercy Corps, but other organizations such as International Medical Teams have helped raise this area's consciousness about the world and vice versa.
Mercy Corps' decision to build a global headquarters and to build it in Portland, surely is the moment to recognize its growing role internationally in responding to humanitarian need, to encourage others in similar efforts and to suggest to them that Portland would be an excellent base of operations.
Mercy Corps also will open its second action center when it opens the headquarters Friday. (The first one is in New York City.) This educational center is intended to further educate and engage visitors, students and others in the nature of basic human needs throughout the world and the extent those needs go unmet -- very often through mere inattention as well as through oppression, poverty and natural disaster. The organization intends to offer more than just information, though, its goal is to make the center a catalyst for action as well. (And, for the record, those who have seen the New York center and/or the new one in Portland, report that it's very cool, very cool indeed.)
The way things go, of course, celebratory moments tend to be relatively brief in the world of international aid, relief and development. Early last week, the organization announced it had shut down 16 years of development efforts in postwar Bosnia and turned its operations over to a Bosnian agency, which Mercy Corps helped create and nurtured to self-sufficiency. By midweek, unfortunately, the focus turned to two earthquake-related disasters in the Pacific, where Mercy Corps had dispatched teams to help with the tsunami damage in American Samoa and the aftermath of the series of earthquakes in Indonesia.
Next week? Who knows. With activities in 40 countries affecting about 14.5million people, it may go without saying that Mercy Corps' 3,700 staffers don't have all that much time to celebrate even the most worthy events. The upcoming events and celebration should and will shine a brief light on a signal development in Mercy Corps' history.
Then it will be back to work.