CORSO formed

16 August 1944

Volunteers pack groceries for CORSO, 1951
Volunteers pack groceries for CORSO, 1951 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 114/282/09-G)

As the Second World War drew towards an end, people realised that a massive aid effort would be required to rehabilitate war-torn nations.

While fighting continued overseas, a group of New Zealanders concerned with the provision of aid met and decided to join forces as the Council of Organisations for Relief Service Overseas (CORSO). The co-convenors of the meeting were the New Zealand Red Cross Society, the National Council of Churches and the Society of Friends (Quakers). 

CORSO and similar bodies formed overseas assisted the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) in its aid efforts. They produced publicity material, raised funds and ran clothing drives, sorting and packing the clothes that were donated. They also provided relief workers to complement UNRRA’s paid staff. In CORSO’s first overseas mission, teams including medical, dental and welfare personnel left for Greece in December 1945. When UNRRA withdrew from Greece in late 1946, most members of the CORSO team also left. But this was not the end of CORSO’s involvement in Greece. Back home, CORSO encouraged support for an international Greek Village Adoption Scheme and funded ongoing aid efforts. 

Many countries have benefited from CORSO’s efforts. The organisation became increasingly involved in the developing world and also spoke out about poverty in New Zealand.