With humility and a deep-seated passion for helping the poor and hungry in their time of need, Monument resident Michael Parks is making a difference in the lives of people around the world by “facilitating heroes” in crisis areas.
Parks serves as the director for disaster response for Global Hope Network International, a small international aid organization focused on helping devastated communities rebuild through aid, training, and community leadership.
“Global Hope Network (International) is what we call a relief and development organization where we work in disaster regions usually in areas where there’s little or no other assistance,” Parks said. “We take our disaster response and move it into long-term development because ultimately we want to see transformation, positive transformation in impoverished communities.”
Parks said his focus is not only on providing people in crisis with the immediate aid that they need but also on giving them the training they need to rebuild their lives using a “Transformational Community Development” model. Parks said he works with amazing people who step up to improve their communities after disaster or crisis.
“We have a model of development that we use that works well that we can transition over time,” Parks said. “In a nutshell, what we do is we train and coach a community to be able to identify their problems,” Parks continued. “They identify their problems, they set the priorities and then (they) form committees within that community to be able to resolve those problems with locally available resources so that within three to five years we’re able to extract out of the equation and they’re able to continue on being released and free from poverty.”
Parks is working with Yazidi people in Iraq, among others. Yazidis are a religious group originating in the Mesopotamian region, the majority of whom live in Iraq. The ancient Yazidi religion is heavily focused on angels, and some Islamic groups consider the religion to be a form of devil worship. ISIS extremists persecuted the Yazidi people severely for their beliefs by killing, raping and stealing.
Despite their situation, Parks said the Yazidi people are resilient, kind and equitable, and willing to move forward to rebuild their lives.
“Most people are very nice and the Yazidi people are extremely nice, some of the easiest people I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve been doing this for a long time now,” Parks said of the people he has met in Iraq.
Parks began his international humanitarian work with an impromptu missions trip to Mexico where he loaded up his van with supplies and volunteers and drove all the way from Kansas to provide aid. His experience with extreme poverty and suffering during subsequent trips to places like the Philippines, China and Sudan sparked his desire to help the suffering people of the world in their greatest time of need. Parks was a Boeing engineer, a minister, and a small-businessman before transitioning into humanitarian work.
“I just remember seeing people dying right there,” Parks said of one of a volunteer trip to Sudan that solidified his passion for humanitarian work. “So I went back and kind of wrapped up some things up with Boeing and quit and that was the transition.”
Though difficult to summarize all that he has experienced during his time providing assistance to people in extreme crisis, Parks said he has learned that nearly everyone in the world, regardless of culture, religion, or country, want and need unconditional love and that an expression of compassion and strategic assistance can change lives.
“The world is a tough place, it’s hard,” Parks said. “Wars, famines, disasters, they just keep coming, and it’s always going to be there and there’s always going to be (a tremendous need) for compassion and love.”
When at home in Monument, where he has lived since 2000, Parks juggles family life with his wife and five children, and actively networks and fundraises to support the organization and its missions around the world.
Parks is in the process of organizing a trip to Iraq in January. He plans to bring Monument residents with him, including an Iraq War veteran.
To donate to Parks’ efforts to help the Yazidi people, or to learn more about the organization and its current projects, visit ghni.org or call 407-207-3256.