70 Years of Success

Since 1951, World Neighbors’ work has transformed millions of lives and has been recognized in a number of ways.

About The Founder

World Neighbors’ late founder, Dr. John L. Peters, was born in Van Buren, Arkansas, on October 6, 1907. As a young man, Peters served in World War II where he saw firsthand the pain and suffering caused by poverty. Following his military service, he finished his doctorate at Yale University and established a home in Oklahoma City. Dr. Peters returned from World War II with a strong conviction to do something to help the poverty-stricken people of South East Asia. On April 22, 1951 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City, Peters gave his seminal sermon titled “Let’s Deal with Basic Issues” that started a grassroots movement called World Neighbors.

A visionary beyond his time, Dr. Peters dreamt of an organization administered by people who saw the benefits of empowering people in need to make their own decisions, and improve their own lives. His idea was unique: to help others by working from the bottom up, with no self-interest and an understanding of the dignity that every person has. Today, that organization is thriving, and since its inception in 1951, World Neighbors has changed the lives of more than 29 million people in 45 countries.


In his message, Dr. Peters later explained,

I talked about the things I’d seen, but I spoke mostly about the things I felt: that the gulf between the rich and the wretched was intolerable; that we were brothers to, not keepers of, the world’s needy; that we must learn to do things with, not to—or even for—others; that they must share in electing priorities and procedures.”

Following the inspiring message at St. Luke’s, World Neighbors was born. The phones stayed busy as people pledged their money to “back John Peters 100 percent in what he wants to do.” Dr. Peters went to Washington D.C. and then on to India where the very first World Neighbors programs were launched. Under his guidance, World Neighbors would grow into one of the foremost development agencies in the world, reaching millions of people with its programs, which invest in people and not things; strengthening the capacity of community organizations while realizing full human potential.

Throughout his life, Dr. Peters received countless honors for his work with World Neighbors. He was elected to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. He received Guidepost magazine’s “Good Samaritan Award,” a citation from the National Conference of Christians and Jews and honorary doctorates from three universities.

World Neighbors currently works in 14 countries helping people develop, manage and sustain their own programs. World Neighbors does not give away food or material aid. Instead, it provides training so that people gain the skills and leadership to work together for change. The result is self-reliance, rather than dependence on external aid.

Cry Dignity!

by Dr. John L. Peters

You will learn about this organization that believes in treating illnesses, not symptoms, by providing realistic answers to some of our world’s most basic problems. And these answers are the result of actively listening to the needs of rural people and then determining how to effectively fix those problems by offering education and training, not by giving away food or material aid.

Through Peters’ eyes, you will witness the kind of walking compassion that transcends language, dogmas and cultural barriers.

Download a copy of Cry Dignity! here.