Nonprofit to host poverty simulations Feb. 24-26

Andy Lee

By Contributor Andy Lee

Passionate.

That is how I would describe Daniel and Hannah Walters, the founders of Vigilant Hope, a 6-year-old nonprofit birthed out of a burning desire to help people in need.

Dramatically impacted by a poverty simulation they attended in Waco, TX, the Walters wanted to do more than give food or money to the marginalized in our society. (Generally, poverty simulations involve role-play where a person experiences what it’s like to live in a low-income situation.)

They wanted to give people hope for a new life. Hope beyond today’s soup line or free hand-out.

“This hope only comes through relationship,” explained Daniel Walters.

Daniel and Hannah Walters, founders of Vigilant Hope

The first seeds of Vigilant Hope were planted in West Virginia. After he took a youth minister position there, the Walters’ vision to help at-risk families became a reality when they opened a community center for after-school tutoring, teen outreaches, and volunteer training.

The Wade Center in Bluefield, W.V., became a place of hope for hundreds of kids.

After they moved back to North Carolina, that very same phenomenon occurred in one of Wilmington’s inner-city middle schools. The school allowed Vigilant Hope volunteers to come during school hours. Due to faithful mentoring and tutoring, students who were failing completed their courses with A’s and B’s. Yet another testimony to the power of love.

Local volunteers and some children they help through Vigilant Hope. Photo courtesy the Walters.

Though mentoring at-risk kids is probably the nonprofit’s most tangible success, it’s not their only objective. Vigilant Hope has two other focuses: inner-city missions and poverty simulations.

Youth groups and college groups from all over the country have attended inner-city mission trips led by Hannah Walters, who helps prepare the groups for service within their own community as well as future trips to foreign countries. These inner-city missions include home-repair projects for the elderly, assistance for local relief agencies, feeding the poor and homeless, and summer group activities with at-risk kids.

Hannah also directs poverty simulations much like the one she attended. She described the power of a simulation: “I grew up in a family who always served in local soup kitchens and food pantries, but nothing prepared me for the eye-opening experience of actually living homeless and hungry. It changed my life.”

If you desire this total shift in perspective, an opportunity is right around the corner.

Vigilant Hope’s next poverty simulation is February 24-26. People high school age and older can attend. The cost is $50 per person, and local churches receive a discount.

This is a great opportunity for youth groups, but the Walters also encourage parents to join their kids. Since the Walters do not disclose time and place of the simulations before they happen, interested individuals should email Hannah@vigilanthope.com.

From where I sit as a journalist, there are two foundational beliefs that make Vigilant Hope unique in today’s church culture. First, the Walters realize that programs don’t change situations; people do. Second, they know what works in one community will not necessarily work in another.

Therefore, the vision for Wilmington does not include a big community building like the Wade Center in Virginia. They are building a network of churches serving in different areas of our sprawling city. Currently, VH is partnering with seven local churches.

For more information on how your church or youth group can impact our city for good visit Vigilant Hope’s website or email: info@vigilanthope.com.

Also, check out their Facebook fan page to see Vigilant Hope in action.

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3 responses to “Nonprofit to host poverty simulations Feb. 24-26

  1. “After they moved back to North Carolina, that very same phenomenon occurred in one of Wilmington’s inner-city middle schools. The school allowed Vigilant Hope volunteers to come during school hours.”

    My question, as a resident of New Hanover County, is which school allowed this religious sect into the schools during school hours, and how does this conform to the separation of church and state? If this school was a public school supported by taxpayer monies, then having a religious organization who is all about Christianity, work with children in the school is wrong. Could there have been a student or more who were not being raised as Christian being educated in that school?

    It is a known fact that the more individualized attention given to a child in an educational environment, the more successful the child will be. It’s nothing new, and this situation with volunteers from a religious sect working with public school children during the school day is an affront to any parent who is either not religious or is raising their children in the Jewish, Muslim or Hindu faiths among others. I have no problems with after school programs offered to school age children because a parent can choose to send the child or not. I also have no problems with volunteers in our public school system as long as they keep their religion personal and to themselves. When they present themselves as a member of a Christian group, they are not keeping their religion personal and to themselves.

    And, by the way, “the power of love” is not limited to Christian beliefs or actions.

  2. Ms. Hodges: Does the religious orientation of the volunteers really matter? Isn’t it possible that they were there to help the kids academically and not to shape their religious beliefs? I think the schools would have been equally as open to Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or even atheist volunteers coming in if it meant help for the students who were struggling to make the grade.

  3. Just to restate: ” I also have no problems with volunteers in our public school system as long as they keep their religion personal and to themselves. When they present themselves as a member of a Christian group, they are not keeping their religion personal and to themselves.”

    So, no, it doesn’t matter what the religious orientation that volunteers have; however, it does matter when they are identified as from that religion. That is called proselytizing by default, if not overtly.

    And, no, I would have no problem with the volunteers being Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or “even atheists” (I did note the lower case “a” in atheists) in their belief or non-belief philosophy of life. Some of my best friends are volunteers in the public school system, come from various philosophies and religions, and help these children daily! However, they don’t present themselves as from any religion or religious group when they provide their help.

    If I had a child in school as a Muslim family of moderate income, I would have serious problems with members of a Christian group helping my child in the public school setting during the school day, perhaps being my only option for the education of my children.

    We have separation of church and state in this country, and the word “public” in public schools stands for state. We are a democracy, not a theocracy. Thanks for allowing me to elaborate.

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