By Contributor Andy Lee
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, check out their Facebook fan page to see Vigilant Hope in action.