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Our History

World Vision started with one man trying to help one child in one country with just $5. Today, we help more than 4 million children in nearly 100 countries.

Over the past 60-plus years, we've grown and learned that we cannot stay the same.

We're constantly adjusting to people’s needs, leveraging donations more efficiently, and working toward long-term, sustainable success.

Our History | World Vision

60 Years of Learning

Take a journey with us to learn how World Vision has grown and changed over the years.

Early 1950s

Founding of World Vision in 1950, beginning of sponsorship program

  • Bob Pierce travels around the United States, preaching and making movies to raise awareness about the poverty he saw in Asia.
  • Child sponsorship program begins in 1953, caring directly for children in orphanages.

Mid 1950s

Sponsorship, pastor conferences, and disaster assistance

  • Work focuses primarily on helping children orphaned by the Korean War.
  • World Vision hosts pastor conferences in Southeast Asia.
Mid 1950s

Late 1950s

Sponsorship program grows to care for more than 13,200 children in orphanages in five countries

  • Assistance is sent to indonesia, Japan, Singapore, and Thailand.
  • Work begins in India.
  • World Vision magazine publication starts.
Late 1950s


Early 1960s

Korean Orphan Choir world tour raises awareness and sponsorships; relief work begins; sponsorship expands to 18 countries

  • Work expands rapidly in more countries globally.
  • Work moves beyond just sending assistance.
  • Relief work begins: Supplies are sent to Vietnam, and refugees are helped in Laos.

Mid 1960s

Sponsorship of thousands of orphans; humanitarian assistance continues to grow globally

  • The Korean Children’s Choir goes on a third world tour.
  • Crutches, wheelchairs, and other relief supplies are sent to Vietnam.
Mid 1960s

Late 1960s

Sponsorship program shifts child care emphasis from orphans in orphanages to children in poverty

  • Bob Pierce resigns due to ill health.
  • Stan Mooneyham becomes President of World Vision.
  • Field offices open in Vietnam and Taiwan.
  • Several pastor conferences are hosted around the world.
  • Assistance is sent to several more countries.
  • Nearly 27,000 children are sponsored.
Late 1960s


Early 1970s

Sponsorship program model shifts from exclusive benefits only for sponsored children to community development — for the benefit of all children

  • Sponsorship expands to 54,000 children in 25 countries, and relief efforts continue to grow. Relief and development division is created.
  • World Vision pastor conferences continue globally.
  • Relief efforts expand to Tanzania, Laos, and even behind enemy lines in war-torn Cambodia.
Early 1970s

Mid 1970s

Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam and instability forces programs to close in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, impacting 23,000 sponsored children

  • Work includes sending assistance, evacuating orphans, helping Vietnamese refugees in Thailand, pastors conferences, and evangelistic outreaches.
  • Sponsorship programs are expanded into nine Latin American countries.
  • Office support structure is changed, allowing national offices to focus on programs and support offices to focus on donors and fundraising, resulting in more efficient management of funds.
  • Vocational and agricultural training for families is incorporated into sponsorship programs. Learning to farm and earn money is sustainable change that helps parents be better providers for their children. These efforts ultimately evolve into World Vision’s current community development work, which has proved central to bringing lasting hope.

Late 1970s

Completion of transition to community development approach for sponsorship, with goal of helping communities achieve self-reliance; "Operation Seasweep" rescues Vietnamese refugees stranded on boats

  • Sponsorship program includes 193,000 children.
  • Relief programs aid 446,000 people worldwide.
  • Sponsorship and development work begins in Africa.
  • When Vietnamese refugees are stranded at sea, World Vision President Stan Mooneyham and crew rush to their aid and distribute relief items from a rescue ship in the daring “Operation Seasweep.”
Late 1970s


Early 1980s

A growing number of international support offices expands the organization’s global reach and capacity

  • By 1982, World Vision’s work touches the lives of 8.6 million people, including 300,000 sponsored children through 2,993 projects in more than 30 countries.
  • Disaster response and long-term community development become increasingly important.
Early 1980s

Mid 1980s

Large-scale famine in Ethiopia brings unprecedented public support

  • The organization grows to a large enough size with enough resources and influence to respond to the epic famine that unites the world. Response includes immediate aid and a long-term recovery plan.
  • Due to inflation and administrative costs, World Vision briefly markets sponsorship to be childcare partners of a "representative child." Sponsorship rates go down for the first time in World Vision history. Sponsorship programs are quickly readjusted to retain one-to-one sponsor and child relationships, while streamlining and improving administrative operations.
  • Adjustments are made upon learning that community development projects can make progress more efficiently if work is funded by one support country instead of multiple support countries.

Late 1980s

Work expands beyond rural areas into urban areas; distribution begins of gifts-in-kind donations of product from companies

  • By 1989, donors around the world sponsor 834,000 children and maintain 5,510 projects in more than 80 countries, with total beneficiaries at an estimated 17.2 million.
  • Well-drilling begins in communities, resulting in lower infant mortality rates. We often use clean water as an entry point into communities, in conjunction with other activities that create change.
Late 1980s


Early 1990s

Responding to the fall of communism and the rise of AIDS

  • After the collapse of communism in Europe, World Vision expands to care for orphans and vulnerable children in Romania, with an emphasis on providing supplies and education.
  • World Vision U.S. begins controversial response to the global AIDS crisis, caring for those in need.
  • A development plan is created for women in leadership, as well as an initiative to promote equal access to education for girls worldwide.
  • Advocacy focuses on ending child exploitation and banning the use of landmines.
  • World Vision Korea transitions from receiving funds to raising funds to help others.

Mid 1990s

Responding to wars, genocide, coups, and more

  • World Vision provides food, medical care, and resettlement help to survivors of the Rwandan genocide.
  • Work includes successful long-term peacebuilding and reconciliation training between ethnic groups in Rwanda.
Mid 1990s

Late 1990s

Kosovo war relief response, advocacy, and fundraising through 30 Hour Famine program

  • World Vision launches a global re-branding effort to unify the organization and increase awareness.
  • A dedicated global rapid response team is formed to better respond to emergencies worldwide.
  • Organizational child protection policies are implemented.
Late 1990s



Early 2000s

Taking on the AIDS crisis and the decade’s worst famine

  • The Hope Initiative is launched to care for hundreds of thousands of children orphaned by AIDS.
  • The organization takes the lead to inspire Christians in the United States to do something about the crisis.
  • World Vision receives one of the largest emergency relief grants in history, along with partnering nongovernmental organizations, to provide food and assistance to tens of millions affected by the decade's worst famine in Southern Africa.
Early 2000s

Mid 2000s

Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina bring record devastation, response, donations, and support

  • A massive tsunami devastates South Asia, and 3,700 local World Vision staff members respond immediately with life-saving aid.
  • Our network of local staff members and pre-positioned relief supplies make immediate response to disasters more efficient and life-saving, both here in the United States and around the world.
  • Approach to disaster relief includes long-term development and rebuilding work.

Late 2000s

Learning to respond regionally to disasters

  • Post-Hurricane Katrina response leads to a ramped-up and improved U.S. disaster response strategy, with distribution centers stocking pre-positioned disaster relief supplies in warehouses around the United States.
Late 2000s




Early 2010s

Haiti earthquake and Japan earthquake/tsunami relief and rebuilding efforts

  • World Vision focuses on improving sponsorship community development model, with the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency.
  • A common programming framework is rolled out for child well-being outcomes and objectives, helping create measurable goals for sustained well-being of children within families and communities, especially the most vulnerable.
  • Advocacy work in the field is refined and improved, focusing on training for child rights, as well as influencing local governments to enact policies that fight poverty and injustice.
Early 2010s