Tearfund is a UK Christian relief and development agency based in Teddington. It currently works in around 50 countries, with a primary focus on supporting those in poverty and providing disaster relief for disadvantaged communities.

FounderGeorge Hoffman and the Evangelical Alliance
TypeChristian charity
Registration no.265464 (England & Wales) SC037624 (Scotland)

Tearfund states that it offers this support regardless of race or religious affiliation. However, they fulfil the work by operating largely through local Christian churches and other Christian partner organisations around the world.


The charity organisation was created by the Evangelical Alliance (EA), which was receiving spontaneous aid from its supporters. This occurred in spite of the EA not being involved in any aid or development work at the time.

The money was distributed to support existing aid agencies, before the EA launched an entirely new organisation. Originally named The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund Committee,[1]:17this was later abbreviated to the acronym TEAR Fund, before finally changing to Tearfund. The charity was initially headed by former curate, George Hoffman, who was also one of its founders.[1]:21 TEAR fund was launched in 1968 and officially registered as a charity in 1973. [1]:21

Cliff Richard was an early supporter of Tearfund, travelling overseas to publicise their work and raising £300,000 for the charity through a series of benefit concerts between 1969 and 1984. He has also served as Tearfund's Vice-President and President.

In 1972, Tearfund worked overseas for the first time – as opposed to funding projects run by existing agencies – working in hospitals, clinics, and feeding camps of Bangladesh alongside the charity Interserve.[1]:62

Launch of disaster response work

In 1994, Tearfund set up the Disaster Response Unit, later re-named the Disaster Management Team. [1]:65–66 The first disaster responded to was the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide.

The largest disaster response to date (2018) was the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. Staff and partner groups provided assistance to roughly 700,000 survivors in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Thailand.

Tearfund is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella group, comprising 13 charities, including Oxfam and Christian Aid.

Tearcraft and the fairtrade movement

Tearfund began Tearcraft, an early fairtrade venture, in 1974. They imported goods such as coffee, crafts and jewellery from areas where it was working. Most of the items were sold through a network of volunteer church representatives in the UK. Tearcraft’s work was wound up in 2015, with more and more fairly traded goods available elsewhere. However, the charity Traidcraft, formed in 1979 by Tearcraft founder Richard Adams (businessman), continues very similar work – Adams had left Tearfund, unhappy that Tearcraft only worked with evangelical Christian organisations overseas. Adams also went on to found the Fairtrade Foundation in 1989 which has played a central role in bringing fairly traded goods to a wider public.[1]:133

Child sponsorship programme

Tearfund began an early child sponsorship programme, ‘Family Plan’ in 1974 – later renaming it ‘Partners in Childcare’. The first children sponsored were Bangladeshi orphans. Tearfund later changed its emphasis from institutional care to supporting children through families and local churches. At its peak, over 28,000 children were being sponsored through the scheme. Tearfund’s child sponsorship work was wound up in 1999, with the charity pointing potential sponsors to Compassion UK.[1]:141

Micah Network

In 1999, Tearfund played a role in the foundation of the Micah Network, which consists of over 750 evangelical organisations worldwide. The network aims to strengthen the work of the member charities, share best practice, and examine the Christian distinctives of their work, [2].

50th Anniversary

Tearfund marked its 50th Anniversary in 2018 with an extensive campaign encouraging financial giving, prayer for an end to extreme poverty and further support for its campaigning work. There have also been a number of events around the UK marking the anniversary, including a service in Coventry Cathedral featuring the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby[3].

Current priorities

Tearfund states that they exist to ‘follow Jesus where the need is greatest’[4], stressing the importance of a continuing presence in regions that may be difficult or even dangerous to work in.[5]

A high proportion of this work is carried out in partnership with local Christian churches and NGOs. Tearfund currently works with 268 partners around the world and over 150,000 local churches.[6] :2

In 2017, Tearfund set out three key priorities that it would be focusing on in coming years:

Fragile states: regions considered highly vulnerable to natural or man-made disasters, but don't have enough capacity to cope with the consequences. Tearfund stresses that longer-term development is vital in places hit by disaster. They emphasise what they call Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), which encourages communities to become better prepared for any future disasters.[7]:57

Environmental and economic sustainability: prioritising more equitable distribution of wealth and resources, whilst not harming the environment. In 2015 Tearfund published a paper called The Restorative Economy, which considers how environmental and economic concerns should drive questions around lifestyle and development.[8] :57

Church and community transformation (CCT): encouraging local churches to help their communities to articulate their key needs (e.g. water, education and so on) and work together to find appropriate solutions. Key local initiatives to escape poverty include small-scale loan cooperatives and training in sustainable farming techniques..[9] :57


In 2000, four Tearfund staff were kidnapped whilst performing charity work in Sierra Leone. They were freed after four days but robbed of all their possessions.[10]

In February 2017, Government forces raided Tearfund compounds in Motot and Yuai, South Sudan, after staging an incursion into an opposition-controlled region of the country. There was a significant loss of assets and some damage. However workers had already been evacuated.

Sister organisations

A number of other international charities have been launched in partnership with Tearfund. These are separate organisations that all have ties with Tearfund itself:

Tearfund Ireland, founded 2008.[11] Tearfund (New Zealand), founded 1975.[12] Tear based in the Netherlands, founded 1973. [13] Tearfund Canada (formerly World Relief Canada), founded 1970.[14] Sel based in France, founded 1980.[15] Tear Australia, founded 1971.[16] Tearfund Belgium, founded 1979.[17] TearFund (Switzerland), founded 1984.[18]

In 2018 Tearfund announced that it was launching Tearfund USA, with Sonia Patterson, founder of the Impact Wisdom website[19], the first CEO.[20]

Projects working within Tearfund in the UK

A number of discrete initiatives currently operate within Tearfund in the UK. These include:

Restored: An international Christian Alliance working to end violence against women, with a focus on transforming relationships.[21]

Toilet Twinning: Funds the building of latrines and sanitation projects around the world by getting people to twin their toilets in the UK with an overseas latrine.[22]

Inspired Individuals: The Tearfund-sponsored programme identifies, nurtures and links up Christian entrepreneurs who are radical changemakers in their communities.[23]

Tearfund Learn: An arm of Tearfund that produces a wide range of educational resources for people involved in development work.[24]

There are also separate Tearfund offices in Wales[25], Scotland[26] and Northern Ireland[27], each initiating nation-specific campaigning and communications as well as coordinating on UK-wide work.


Tearfund produces a number of regular and one-off publications, mostly available in both printed and digital formats. Current publications include:

Tear Times – A magazine sent to supporters three times a year, with news, stories and promotions.[28]

Prayer Diary – Sent with Tear Times, containing prayer points for every day.[29]

Tearfund Learn – publish a number of educational resources, include Footsteps, a community development magazine. It is currently translated into five languages and distributed worldwide three times a year. They also regularly produce training materials on topics such as environmental sustainability. [30]

Church publications – Tearfund sends supporting churches regular resources to coincide with appeals and emergencies. It occasionally produces church and Bible study group resources for Christmas and Easter.[31]

It also publishes a number of reports on development-related issues such as sustainability.[32][33]

Advocacy and Campaigning

Advocacy (influencing government policy and practice) and campaigning are a major part of Tearfund’s current work.

Tearfund first spoke out about climate change as part of the Whose Earth? campaign in 1992, with evangelical organisations Spring Harvest and Youth for Christ. In 1997, Tearfund started a full-scale programme to equip supporters to campaign on poverty issues called ‘Global Action Network’.[1]:183

Isabel Carter from Tearfund was part of the team that launched the international Jubilee 2000 campaign in 1996.[34] The campaign, which later became the Jubilee Debt Coalition, was based around the biblical idea of Jubilee (Christianity). It called for the debt of the world’s poorest nations to be cancelled, to mark the forthcoming new millennium. In 2005, Tearfund joined a number of NGOs and other groups for the Make Poverty History campaign. This also focused on global debt as well as fairer trade between rich and developing nations and more, ‘better targeted’, aid.

Over $130 billion of debt owed by developing countries has subsequently been cancelled by governments. Make Poverty History was dissolved in 2006, although the Jubilee Debt Campaign continues to campaign on a number of related issues.[35]

In 2012 Tearfund successfully campaigned with the Publish What You Pay coalition, leading to oil, gas, mining and forestry companies registered within the EU being required to publish payments made to governments anywhere in the world.[36] [37]

Tearfund currently campaigns on climate change – stressing its role in the creation of global poverty – pressing for greater global access to clean energy. They are members of The Climate Coalition (UK), with 130 other charities including Christian Aid and Friends of the Earth. They have extensively promoted the circular economy – an economic model based on the re-use of resources and avoidance of unnecessary waste.[38] They have recently launched a 'Rubbish Campaign' which called out large companies such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, PepsoCo and Unilever to urgently take action and tackle this waste problem.[39]

High profile supporters and ambassadors

Tearfund has attracted a number of key evangelical supporters, who have promoted their work. Cliff Richard heavily publicised its work and has served as both President and Vice President. In 1969, Cliff Richard performed two concerts[40] at the Royal Albert Hall in support of the charity. Current Tearfund ambassadors include Tamsin Greig and Bear Grylls, along with a number of evangelical Christian leaders including Dr Krish Kandiah and Pete Greig.


  1. Hollow, Mike Roch (2008). A Future And A Hope. Oxford, UK: Monarch Books. ISBN 978-1-85424-865-7.
  2. "Micah Network". Micah Network. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  3. "Coventry Observer". Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  4. "Tearfund – About Us". Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  5. "Tearfund – Conflict". Tearfund. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  6. "Tearfund Annual Report 2016/7" (PDF). Tearfund Annual Report 2016/7. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  7. Inspiring Change (PDF). Tearfund https://www.tearfund.org/~/media/files/main_site/about_us/tearfund_impact_report_16_and_17_interactive.pdf?la=en. Retrieved 8 June 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. Inspiring Change (PDF). Tearfund https://www.tearfund.org/~/media/files/main_site/about_us/tearfund_impact_report_16_and_17_interactive.pdf?la=en. Retrieved 8 June 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. Inspiring Change (PDF). Tearfund https://www.tearfund.org/~/media/files/main_site/about_us/tearfund_impact_report_16_and_17_interactive.pdf?la=en. Retrieved 8 June 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. "Sierra Leone hostages". The Times. August 31, 2000.
  11. "Tearfund Ireland". Tearfund Ireland. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  12. "Tearfund New Zealand". Tearfund NZ. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  13. "Tear Netherlands". tearnetherlands.nl. 2015-03-10. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  14. "Tearfund Canada". Tearfund.ca.
  15. "Sel". selfrance.org. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  16. "Tear Australia". tear.org.au. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  17. "Tearfund Belgium". tearfund.be. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  18. "TearFund Scweiz". Tearfund.ch. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  19. "Impact Wisdom". impactwisdom.org. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  20. "Tearfund to expand into the US". thirdsector.co.uk. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  21. "Restored". restoredrelationships.org. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  22. "Toilet Twinning". toilettwinning.org. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  23. "Inspired Individuals". tearfund.org/inspired_individuals. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  24. "Tearfund Learn". learn.tearfund.org. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  25. "Tearfund Wales". Tearfud.org. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  26. "Tearfund Scotland". Tearfund.org. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  27. "Tearfund Northern Ireland". Tearfund.org. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  28. "Digital Tear Times". tearfund.org.
  29. "Prayer Diary". tearfund.org.
  30. "Tearfund Learn Resources". learn.tearfund.org/resources/publications/. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  31. "Resources for Churches". tearfund.org. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  32. "The Restorative Economy" (PDF). The Restorative Economy. Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  33. "The Circular Economy" (PDF). Retrieved 8 June 2018.
  34. Carter, Isabel (2018). A Taste of Heaven. UK: Onwards & Upwards.
  35. "Jubilee Debt Campaign FAQs". Jubileedebt.org. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  36. "Publish What You Pay – Mandatory Disclosures". publishwhatyoupay.org. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  37. "EU's new laws will oblige extractive industries to disclose payments". TheGuardian.com. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  38. "The Virtuous Circle" (PDF). learn.tearfund.org. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  39. https://www.tearfund.org/en/2019/05/rubbish_campaign_launch/
  40. https://www.tearfund.org/about_us/history/
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