Rural Opportunity Institute (ROI), one of eight organizations in New Profit’s first Health Equity Cohort, supports youth, organizations, and communities in rural North Carolina to help them interrupt the cycle of generational trauma and design innovative solutions for healing and resilience. ROI builds new tools and is open-source, freely sharing what works. ROI works to turn wisdom and the newest science into common practice.

Below, ROI Co-Founder Vichi Jagannathan shares the path that led her to start the organization and how, when properly resourced, a rural community can become a hotbed of innovative practice.

Q: Can you reflect on a moment from your life that really shaped who you are today? What about this moment brought about the greatest impact on your career?

A: As a child of Indian immigrants, I internalized education as the ticket to achieving success, believing those who did not attain it were fully responsible for their struggles. I attended three Ivy League universities, but never once learned about the legacies of racialized trauma still perpetuated by institutions, including schools, through policies and practices steeped in white supremacy.

When I moved to rural North Carolina to teach high school, a blindfold was finally ripped off. This was the onset of my journey to realizing that, even as a first-generation person of color, I benefit from and am complicit in upholding unjust systems. Since then I have been on a quest for truth and justice. I am obsessed with primary research and believe community members with lived experience are the only direct source of truth.

I helped found ROI to connect the privilege, knowledge, and resources I hold with rural communities whose stories are often told by others in ways that hide their power and light from the world.

Q: What is the one thing you wish more people knew about the issue your organization is working to solve?

A: I wish people understood that trauma (abuse, neglect, systemic injustice) is both a root cause of so many health, education, and career challenges AND that we have the tools and ability to heal trauma and prevent it from happening in the first place. People are not to blame for the trauma that they experience—trauma is the result of systems and environments that perpetuate punishment and isolation. Redesigning those systems and environments is at the root of healing.

Read the full article about social entrepreneurship at Forbes.