World Vision began with the vision of one man—the Reverend Bob Pierce. In 1947 Rev. Pierce met Tena Hoelkedoer, a teacher, while on a trip to China. She introduced him to a battered and abandoned child named White Jade. Unable to care for the child herself, she asked, "What are you going to do about her?" Rev. Pierce gave the woman his last five dollars and agreed to send the same amount each month to help the woman care for the girl.
This encounter was a turning point for Rev. Pierce. He began building an organization dedicated to helping the world's children, and in 1950 World Vision was born. The first child sponsorship program began three years later in response to the needs of hundreds of thousands of orphans at the end of the Korean War. Over the next several decades, World Vision expanded its work throughout Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Resources from child sponsorship assisted poor children with food, education, health care and vocational training.
In the 1970s, World Vision embraced a broader community development model and established an emergency relief division. It attempted to address the causes of poverty by focusing on community needs such as water, sanitation, education, health, leadership training and income generation. World Vision began the 21st century by strengthening its advocacy efforts, particularly on issues related to child survival and poverty alleviation. It became more active in working with governments, businesses and other organisations in addressing issues such as child labour, children in armed conflict and the sexual exploitation of women and children.
World Vision, together with microfinance subsidiary VisionFund International, has become a leading humanitarian organization. Some 40,000 staff members (including part time and temporary staff and employees of microfinance institutions) implement programs of community development, emergency relief and promotion of justice in nearly 100 countries.