(l-r) Malissa Waterford with her daughter, 15-year-old Lauren Waterford, in front of the London Bridge during a Global Minded Project international trip last summer. Courtesy photo


Even before she founded the Global Minded Project (GMP) last year, Bloomington native Malissa Waterford knew she wanted to bring two of her interests—travel and working with children—together for a common purpose. However, she says it wasn’t until she visited Europe as part of an educational tour group that she found the inspiration for her nonprofit organization.

“One of the more insecure students on this trip had a complete life change,” Waterford says. “Her confidence grew in such a way that it revolutionized her outlook on life, which I think is something only travel can do. So, after I saw this, I really began to think about how I could facilitate that experience in other people.” 

That led Waterford to found the Global Minded Project. The nonprofit has three facets—local projects, national trips, and international trips—but its main focus is offering travel opportunities to those who might not otherwise be able to have those experiences. To subsidize the cost of flights, accommodations, and other expenses, the GMP works with local sponsors, creates community fundraising events, and hosts auctions with items donated by area businesses. 

Waterford, 42, has been teaching outdoor education for 10 years and working with children for 25 years.

Founded just last year, the GMP has taken one trip to Europe and one to the Pacific Northwest. Plans are for another trip this year, with the possibility of adding more trips as demand and funding increase. 

“Our trips are typically geared toward high school age, but we had people from 12 to 70 signed up for our tour of Western Europe this summer.” Waterford says.

As the GMP continues to grow, Waterford hopes to expand the scope of its education programs by taking kids to hike bigger trails such as those along the Red River Gorge in Kentucky or in the Smoky Mountains. 

“Above all, we want to create events that our community will really value and enjoy.” Waterford says.

To learn more, visit globalmindedproject.com.