Melissa and Clint Mitchell moved to the Middle East 22 years ago. They raised three sons there. They learned Arabic. They travelled. They served at church and worked hard in their respective jobs. In 2014 Melissa’s life took a different turn. She travelled to Jordan and visited the Zaatari Refugee Camp, which at the time, was home to nearly a million refugees. (This camp, the world’s largest camp for Syrian refugees, opened in 2012 for those fleeing the Syrian Civil War.) During this trip Melissa also visited the “smaller” refugee camps surrounding the larger UN supported camp. These camps do not receive help from the UN and Melissa soon realized that her new work would start here.
At the end of 2015 Melissa launched a Non-Profit Government Organization (NGO) called Walk with Me. She partnered with Tying Vines at this time realizing that in order to implement her growing vision and maximize time and effectiveness she would need help with the administrative side of a nonprofit. “I’ve challenged their tag line ‘supporting new growth’ to the max… from business model to full implementation of projects.”
Walk with Me is dedicated to helping refugees living outside the sanctioned camps who receive no help from the UN (approximately 80% of all refugees live in these peripheral camps). Melissa calls these camps some of the “largest open-air prisons in the world”. Initially Melissa’s focus was on the refugees’ medical needs. However, since launching the first clinic in 2015, Melissa expanded Walk with Me’s scope to creating education programs, counseling centers, and vocational training courses. From the first clinic launched in Jordan the work is now in 5 countries: Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Thirteen 40 ft. containers have been shipped to various locations and camps. Two of them were designed to be mobile medical clinics (and filled with medical supplies). One was outfitted as an educational center, one was filled with general relief supplies, and one 40 ft. container was filled with food supplies.
Author Brian de Francesca, in his digital article “The Greatest Humanitarian Aid Initiative in History” published in Middle East Medical refers to Melissa as a “true Warrior Angel”. His life was changed when he travelled to one of the camps and saw for himself what it is really like there. “Their reality hit me like a freight train at full speed-this was real, sad and not acceptable in any way at all.” Or as his guide Jamal said, “You do not really understand, until you breathe their need.”
Walk with Me now works with 50 Partner Organizations, including iCross Canada, Medical Bridges and the Texas A&M University BUILD service organization. By the end of 2018 over 87,000 volunteer hours were logged by Walk with Me volunteers and over 75,000 refugees were helped. In 2019 Melissa is looking to have more containers delivered to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. The First Aggie Education Unit is scheduled to arrive in Jordan in the coming months and a Community Development Transformation program is planned to be launched in Iraq. Various programs will also be expanded: Med-tech, nurse’s aide certifications, Videography/Photography Programs, Vocational Training Options and IRYO Software Deployment in 5 locations.
In addition to the work mentioned above Melissa was invited to speak at Texas A&M for their 3rd annual BUILD Gala in December of 2018. Melissa shared her story, commended the students for their impact upon this world, and challenged them with her vision of reaching 700 refugee camps worldwide. Her message, “We Can Each Do Something to Help Refugees, was well received and selected for publication by Vital Speeches of the Day alongside of speeches by the President and Secretary of State of the US. She lives out this message every day and invites each of us to join with her and “Walk With Me”.
For more information for how you can become involved in supporting or volunteering with Walk With Me, click the link below.