Hopelessness demands a response. This is not only a universal truth, but one that underscores the academic tasks at Walden University. My name is Jody Vermaas and I’m in my practicum course in the Walden University Mental Health Counseling Program.

In 2010, my family decided to relocate to the Middle East to pursue mission work. During this time we also traveled to the villages of central India to work with an orphanage there. Because of Walden’s online approach, I was able to begin my coursework for a Master’s degree in Counseling, as I actively worked on the mission field. While traveling to India and meeting with their children and care-givers in the orphanage, I noticed an incredible need for basic mental health resources. Many of the children I visited had witnessed their parents brutally murdered and remained in need and without crisis support. With that, the crisis and trauma counseling course with Professor Brawley also changed the direction of my counseling career.

Advocacy and immediate practical assistance must coincide with any mental health efforts I, and any professional staff, may endeavor to provide these children. Therefore, I began to research, with the help of a few other professionals, how to set up a non-profit organization to raise money and support in order to meet these needs. In the past 6 months, we have set up Priority One Worldwide, a non-profit organization aiming to raise money to provide for the needs of these women and children. What makes Priority One World Wide different than other money-raising organizations, is its goal to transfer 100% of its collections to the people, with no administrative fees or salaries taken out.

In the past year, Priority One Worldwide has visited several orphanages as well as raised money to send other professional volunteers to visit and offer their assistance. Through our fundraising we have partnered with indigenous churches to build a new orphanage building in Damoh to house 42 orphans who have been rescued from homelessness and violence. Just last month, the grassroots team at Priority One Worldwide identified a group of children living on the streets of Nagpur. We have raised enough money through Priority One Worldwide to provide housing and caretakers, as well as education, for these children, who otherwise have little hope. The goal is to stabilize their day to day living conditions, provide safety and genuine care; and then to support them with free mental health services.

While so much more is ahead in my education and training, I am thankful that Walden University supports its students in taking action NOW. We don’t have to wait. We get to empower them to change, even as we change ourselves and our own future professional careers. Thank you.