Almost four decades ago, ZOA was initiated as a true ‘civil society’ initiative. In 1973, a group of Christian students took a stand and organised support for refugees in Indo-China. The 1970s were a time when large groups of people in Dutch society became involved in voicing political protest but the founders of the organisation took their voice one step further and emphasized the importance of responding in concrete and tangible ways. Their initiative became the starting point for the current organisation known as ZOA, and their original motivation remains today. ZOA has always emphasised the need to translate compassion and concern about the lives and circumstances of the displaced into concrete action.
Over the years, ZOA has grown from a small organisation, with limited capacity for practical support in only a few countries, to a professional organisation that runs high quality, integrated programmes for people affected by conflict or disaster in 10 to 15 African and Asian countries. In addition to receiving private support and funding from the Netherlands, ZOA has a variety of institutional donors and partners around the world. What has remained throughout its development is ZOA’s commitment and determination to contribute to bringing real, tangible, and sustainable change to the lives of people affected by conflict and disaster. Thus, the organisation serves as a means by which thousands of people in Dutch society can contribute to bringing hope to people in despair in a way that is compliant with contemporary professional standards for relief and development. As such, ZOA has remained a ‘civil society’ organisation with strong roots in Dutch society, particularly among Christians. We maintain a strong connection with our constituency through networks of schools, churches, businesses, private donors, and volunteers. At the same time, ZOA has developed into a reliable and effective partner to a variety of institutional actors in the Netherlands, Europe, and beyond.
What has also remained is the Christian inspiration. At ZOA, we are motivated by the biblical message of reconciliation and restoration for a broken world. We believe that Christian organisations like ZOA have a specific responsibility to contribute to bringing hope for the benefit of all people, particularly those in vulnerable positions. The gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to pursue and promote justice and to support people in situations of suffering and injustice, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. ZOA’s vision “In a world full of conflict, injustice, poverty, and disaster, we want to contribute to signs of hope and restoration. We see this being revealed where people experience peace, justice, and mutual trust again, and where they regain personal dignity and confidence. ZOA acts and contributes with the biblical perspective of God’s Kingdom, which will bring reconciliation and restoration to its full extent. Meanwhile, God calls us to do justice and be faithful to people that need our support.” ZOA Mission “ZOA supports people who suffer because of armed conflict or natural disasters, in helping them to rebuild their livelihoods. We call on our constituency and partners, in the North and in the South, to take responsibility and get involved. We provide maximum added value to those we support and those who support us.”
 The acronym ZOA stands for the Dutch words “Zuid Oost Azie” (South East Asia), referring to the area where ZOA originally started working.
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