"Someday, no one in Latin America or the Caribbean Basin, especially a child, will suffer avoidable blindness from a lack of essential eye care."
Christian J. Wurst, Jr.
Often described as the "heart and soul" of Vision for the Poor, Chris Wurst was deeply moved by the suffering he saw during his first mission trips with Vision for the Poor eye care teams in the Peten Rainforest region of Guatemala. It was there he felt he could give something back to the Latin American and Caribbean Basin countries that helped his successful coffee business thrive.
In 1993, Chris and a Vision for the Poor medical team visited a young American missionary named Vincent Pescatore and his wife, Zulena, to examine and treat residents of the Peten rainforest region of Guatemala out of a temporary clinic in the couple’s orphanage. He and the team witnessed people streaming in for care from across El Peten, a region the size of New Jersey, which then had but one paved road and 500,000 indigenous residents.
In the crowd an elderly man appeared with his two sons who had carried him countless miles in hope and desperation for two days to reach the clinic. "I could tell right away we would not be able to help him," recounted Dr. Douglas Villella in a subsequent interview with Faith magazine. "He had dense cataracts and we were not prepared to offer surgery."
"I need you to build an eye clinic," said Pescatore. Chris’s team responded and the mission that still drives Vision for the Poor "...to build sustainable eye clinics..." was born. Since then, Chris has served as the organization’s first and most prolific philanthropist. His voluntary giving extends beyond financial resources to the challenging and tedious details of receiving, packing and shipping equipment and supplies from vendors and donors. For over 20 years, he has given Vision for the Poor use of his US-based business loading dock, personally detailing and checking every manifest list and taking responsibility for successful delivery.
Closest to his heart remain the people he has served on over 53 mission trips across seven Latin American and Caribbean Basin countries, where he acts as an optician, dispensing hundreds of eyeglasses in any given week. "Chris is a very humble man," says Dr. Mariano Yee: "A hard worker, a good friend, a brother." "Chris is the first pious person I can say I know," agrees Linda Boss. "He is full of amazing grace."
"As a philanthropist, I work hard to make sure that what I give is applied properly, is managed wisely and is sustainable. Vision for the Poor is a lean, focused, well-connected, accountable operation that offers an excellent return on investment. I only wish I could have funded more than one clinic!"
Emergency funding for free eye surgery and glasses for all indigent children until we build an endowment large enough to cover these costs outright.
Fund our Children's Eye Care Endowment
If there was ever a time and place to make a meaningful financial contribution – through a personal legacy that will live on in perpetuity – it is with Vision for the Poor and the time to act is now!
To discuss a Giving Opportunity contact:
Dr. Douglas J. Villella
Executive Director - Vision for the Poor
300 State Street
Erie, PA 16507
(814) 454-0604 fax
Click Here to read more about Christian and his legacy.