Wendy Kohli is a philanthropist and environmentalist who with husband Tej Kohli created the Tej Kohli Foundation in 2005. The Tej Kohli Foundation was founded to operate in areas blighted by extreme poverty and reach out to those who hoped for a brighter future. Under the direction of Wendy Kohli, for many years the Tej Kohli Foundation has supported projects at the heart of communities that have been neglected, especially when interventions can help to combat a lack of education, poor health or prejudice.
Wendy Kohli was born in San José, Costa Rica in 1974, where her family owned their own coffee plantation. Hard work and dedication were drilled into the family. Wendy’s father Sn Mario Gurdian also worked as a successful property developer whilst her mother Carmen Maria Nunez Charpentier worked as nurse. Wendy enjoyed an active childhood and showed great interest in art and drama throughout her schooling.
Wendy studied Psychology at Universidad de Costa Rica, and after a short period working as a hospital nurse, in 1997 she began to study dentistry at Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica. In 1999 she met future husband Tej Kohli and they married in 2002. By 2005 Wendy was able to dedicate herself entirely to philanthropic causes around the world.
When she is not overseeing projects of the Tej Kohli Foundation, Wendy Kohli is also a mother to two teenagers, a cat lover and a passionate photographer.
With her deep roots in Costa Rica, in 2005 Wendy Kohli founded Funda Kohli, a non-governmental non-profit organization that is dedicated to helping causes in Costa Rica including childhood wellness, animal welfare and environmental conservation. Now part of the Tej Kohli Foundation’s ‘Impact Initiatives’, Wendy Kohli’s Funda Kohli project has consistently provided support and empowerment to many thousands of Costa Ricans.
Through her stewardship of the Tej Kohli Foundation, Wendy Kohli has sought to have an impact on the welfare and future prospects of young people. Funda Kohli has been able to help and support hundreds of families and educational organisations across Costa Rica. As well as providing desks and solar powered sports facilities for local schools, since 2005 FundaKohli has also fed hundreds of children every week in its free soup kitchens, ensuring that families and children in Costa Rica have access to vital nutrition and sustenance.
Wendy Kohli is also passionate about the environment and animal welfare. She has instigated several strategic alliances between the Tej Kohli Foundation and conservation groups, and in 2019 oversaw the installation of nest boxes to support efforts to conserve and protect Costa Rica’s threatened Red Macaw population. Other projects have included protecting eggs from poachers, taking care of injured sea turtles and releasing baby sea turtles back into the ocean, as well as projects to control Costa Rica’s stray cat population.
As co-founder of the Tej Kohli Foundation, Wendy Kohli is also responsible for the delivery of the Foundation’s global mission to end preventable corneal blindness by 2035. Corneal blindness disproportionately impacts younger people in poor countries and has a pervasive impact on entire families who are unable to access treatment and cures.
The Tej Kohli Cornea Institute at LV Prasad Eye Institute, a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre, is a leading institution for preventative medicine and corneal transplants. The Institute has given free transplants and cures to many thousands of the poorest people on the planet who were living with blindness or severe visual impairment.
Between January 2016 and November 2019 thanks to Wendy Kohli’s stewardship of the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute, more than 223,404 outpatients have been welcomed and more than 43,255 surgical procedures have been provided, largely for free. The Tej Kohli Cornea Institute has also continued Wendy Kohli’s commitment to reach deep into poor and underserved communities, by providing buses to move people to treatment centres, as well as despatching mobile diagnostics vans into poor rural areas, and even setting up makeshift operating theatres in rural villages to complete corneal transplants.
Wendy Kohli has lived in the UK since 2006, and in late 2019 was proud to launch the Tej Kohli Foundation’s first UK project: the ‘Future Bionics’ program. The program funds the purchase and fitting of 3D-printed bionic ‘Hero Arms’ for young people with limb difference in the UK; and highlights how technology can substantially improve the lives and confidence of younger people living with disabilities. The program epitomises the same values with which Wendy Kohli initiated her first philanthropic program in 2005: helping young people by making a direct and meaningful intervention into their lives.
During 2019 Wendy Kohli sponsoring two up-and-coming young documentary makers in the United Kingdom to produce an independent documentary short: SeeAgainFilm.com, which premiered at the 2020 Manchester International Film Festival.
The short film charts the lives of two teenagers in India who are living with Xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare genetic disease that causes skin damage and corneal blindness, as they complete treatment to restore their vision at the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute. Through this ‘impact initiative’ project, Wendy Kohli hopes to highlight the neglect of young people in India who are living with the disease.
Under the stewardship of Wendy Kohli, the Tej Kohli Foundation further advanced its mission to end needless corneal blindness worldwide by initiating the Tej Kohli Cornea Program at Massachusetts Eye And Ear in Boston, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, with an initial $2m donation to accelerate innovative and collaborative research to achieve unprecedented breakthroughs in corneal disease. Wendy has also overseen the Tej Kohli Foundation’s ‘Applied Research’ program, a collaboration between researchers in Montreal Canada, and Moorfields Eye Hospital, UK. In January 2020 the ‘Applied Research’ program moved one step closer in its mission to invest an affordable, accessible and scalable universal cure for corneal blindness through the regeneration of corneal tissue.