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A Vision of the World: a Profile of World Vision International

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A Vision of the World: a Profile of World Vision International
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  A Vision of the World a profile of World Vision International by Erica ornstein World Vision International is the largest Christian nongovernmental organization involved in emergency humanitarian aid (also known as relief) and economic development in the world. According to a recent annual report, in 2004, the organization served loo million people, worked in 96 nations, directly benefited 2.4 million children through child sponsor- ship, raised $1.546 billion (US) in cash and goods for its work, [and] employed 22,500 staff members. ' Its growth rate is staggering. From 1998 to 2004 alone, its income grew from $665 million to almost $1.55 billion. If asked Where is World Vision? one could easily answer Almost everywhere. Where there is need, it is there. The NCO is spatially diffuse, multiheaded, and governed as an international partner- ship. It is local and global. Its scope is the world; its focus is changing one life at a time. 2 Chameleonlike, the NCO is indigenous and acculturated (as its missionary predecessors would say) in local settings. Staff members at project sites share national citizenship with those in need, speak local languages, and have long-term commitments to their projects. Sometimes they live at project sites. Motivated by Jesus Christ's example of service to humanity, the NCO translates acts of relief and development into Christian acts of love. World Vision promotes a view of the world with the potential to be a better place, progress- ing on a path toward utopia where there is no poverty and there is love for humankind-a universal love, Christian love. It promotes development from misery to progress, in local terms, but always for the better. The path to change is one of conversion: converting one spirit or one community at a time to technological improvement, to development, to eco- nomic progress, and, potentially, to Christ. Much of World Vision's current profile emerges from its history. It was founded in the late 1940s by Bob Pierce, an American evangelist and ournalist stationed in Korea.3 Pierce's concern about the plight of a young child in an orphanage inspired him to send monthly remittances toward her support. This commenced what has become a global process of child sponsorship, whereby individuals in donor countries send monthly payments to support children in need. Once sponsors' donations are received by World Vision support offices, they are pooled together to fund economic development projects such as school   I n he hur los r rolls and ch' Ze WATCH v Web promotion for World Vision's thirty-hour famine, an event aimed at youth groups in more than twenty countries. Participants collect donations, then go thirty hours without eating to experience hunger first-hand and to learn about global poverty issues and take part in a variety of charitable activities www.3ohourfarnine.org). construction and improvements in health, sanitation, and agriculture. Child sponsorship remittances are channeled through offices in donor countries toward offices in recipient countries sually in what is considered the developing world. The organization's exten- sive administrative and bureaucratic apparatus monitors and tracks both its sponsored children and the development projects in the communities where they live. Child sponsor- ship is the core of World Vision's fundraising success and accounts for much of its project funding. Stories of personal transformation, echoing the organization's srcin narrative of support for one child at a time, are told and retold in its public documents: a donation or loan transforms a person's life. For instance, in the zoo4 annual review, the chair of World Vision's International Board describes the transformation of a woman brought about by a loan: As World Vision regularly works on such a large scale, often like to instead focus on that one person who feels the impact and genuine care of what we do. From my perspective, the difference we are making may sometimes not seem so big, but for those we are blessed to serve, the experience is often life-changing. While I was in Cambodla in 2004, met a woman whose husband had left her a year ear- lier after having passed on HIV to her. This woman was left destitute, yet she had a child and 70 DESIGNS  seven family members to take care of. With a World Vision loan of $37.50 (US), she was able to set up a grocery business from her home and sell produce to village locals. This woman now has a monthly income of $150 with which she provides food, medicine and shelter for her family, and pays for school fees. All from the beginnings of $37.50. Through our caring staff, World Vision continues to make this kind of personal difference in the life of one per~on. ~ In addition to emphasizing individual transformation, World Vision is a complex transna- tional corporation. It defines itself as an international partnership structured as a network of interdependent national offices (for example, in southern Africa, it has offices in Tanza- nia, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa). World Vision International governs the World Vision partnership through an international council and board of directors and is the registered legal entity that coordinates its structure. In practice, national-level World Vision offices work with local governments and community groups to provide assistance with eco- nomic development. At some of the NGO's larger projects, World Vision staff members live and work with members of rural communities to facilitate such development. World Vision also employs community members from local project sites for this purpose. In places such as sub-Saharan Africa, the NCO follows a long tradition of missionar- ies in the region, focusing on what it calls the holistic synthesis of material and spiritual human development. World Vision proclaims that its organizational mission is to follow Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed, to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of Cod. s Although World Vision is a Christian organization, it generates some of the same types of development and relief projects as secular NCOs. Despite World Vision's apparent similarity to nonreligious NCOs, Christianity determines its core values. All World Vision staff members must sign statements of faith proclaiming their adherence to Christianity. While World Vision's Chris- tian orientation serves as a solrd corporate philosophy, the ways religious beliefs are inter- preted in local contexts vary greatly. World Vision's work, like that of other transnational humanitarian NCOs, is in keeping with contemporary trends in international development, such as a focus on gender equity and participatory rural appraisal. While the degree to which these programs achieve World Vision's goals depends on local contexts and leader- ship at national and field project offices, the meaning of World Vision's work-the degree to which its presence s felt by those giving and receiving assistance annot be measured by project reports or fiscal assessments. 1 World Vision International, 2004 Annual Review (n.p.: World 4 World Vision International, 2004 Annual Review, p 3. Vision International, 2005). p 3 Available online at www. 5 Graerne S. Irvine, Best Things in the Worst Times: An Insider's wvi.org/wvi/pdf/2oo~%~oAnnua1%2oReview.pdf. View of World Vision (Wilsonville, OR: BookPartners, 1996 . 2 Ibid.; Robert A. Seiple, One Life at a Time: Making a World of p. 277. See alsoTetsunao Yamamori, Sewing with the Poor in Difference (Dallas: Word, 1990). Africa (Monrovia, CA: MARC, WG)   Richard Gehman, Let My Heart Be Broken with the Things that Break the Heart of Cod (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960).
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