VALOR recently visited the overflowing beauty in the mountainous area of Southwest Virginia, a group of counties long known for their devotion to coal industry, strong culture, and lilting accents. Little towns tucked in among steeply covered tree-filled slopes look calm and complacent from the winding road in – but minutes away on main street, empty storefront eyes and gaping windows tell of better years gone by. The towns and cities in Southwest Virginia are in various states of neglect – some with champions leading the charge for revival, while others are seemingly left to be reclaimed by the kudzu.
But beauty was all around – from natural landscapes, to the baring of souls in face-to-face conversations – Southwest Virginia overflowed with a reality check of living essence.
A place juxtaposed with poverty and wealth; creativity and complacency. Where opportunities are often tied to industry, and economies are viewed with imbalance.
A place so rich in soul.
This contrast of a strong culture and sense of place reverberated against the need for help, a calling to revitalize a slowly failing economy.
“If you’re flying to other countries to do mission work or to help others, that’s great. But when you take off in the plane, look below you. You are passing over communities that need the exact same help as the places you are going.” – Terry Dickinson, DDS (RAM Corp Volunteer)
Not one of our group left untouched by some portion of the raw trip, with individuals at the forefront of our minds. A look so deep into a community had me “by the horns” as they say – spending time in thoughts regarding my own community and opportunities to strengthen, connect, and empower. The year plus in the VALOR fellowship program has certainly implanted a stronger pull for not only my leadership skills to strengthen, but to actively use my influence, character, and person in ways that positively impact the world around me. There’s no time for life that is apathetic to the surrounding community.