PATRIOT LEDGER.com – When Mikey Walker’s 20-year-old son Kerry died in 1996, she spent years struggling to cope and looking for an outlet for her grief. She finally found one when she joined a group of Hull women who came together for African drumming, and her new hobby took her to Guinea in 2004.
“I went for a totally different reason than what would eventually affect the rest of my life,” Walker, of Hull, said. “When I was there my heart just shifted – it blew up. I don’t even have the words to explain the poverty but also the richness of life and culture.”
Walker has gone back to Africa every year since, hauling supplies across the world and giving to others in a way she calls “deep and profound.” It wasn’t long before she wanted to share that feeling with others, and six years ago she started bringing Boston students along on her annual summer trips to Rwanda.
“The trips did something to my heart that was kind of extraordinary,” Walker said. “And it morphed into wanting to give other kids opportunities they wouldn’t normally have to help. We want to give them an opportunity to see themselves in a different way, and to maybe make their lives a little bigger.”
This summer, The Kerry Jon Walker Fund will take 10 Boston teenagers to the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda where they will get to know students their age, work in the village’s kitchen, help on a farm, do after-school activities with local orphans and tutor students in English.
In addition to service work, the students also visit other nearby villages and study a “very intense” curriculum focused on the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
“It helps them understand how hate speech and rhetoric are the underpinnings of genocide,” Walker said. “The Holocaust is hard for them to study and connect to, because it was so long ago, but here they see where this tragedy happened and meet people their own age who suffered from it.”
“It will be gala-ish, but with a primary focus being around art,” Walker said. “We want to show how much talent there is in our community, in addition to auctioning some beautiful art pieces I have brought back from Rwanda.”
It costs roughly $5,000 per student for the trip, including air fair, lodging and food. Walker says she doesn’t have a fundraising goal for this month’s event, because she knows the fund will be able to “do something good” with any amount of money it raises.
Once the group has raised enough money for this year’s trip, Walker said she wants to expand the fund to include work with Partners In Health, a organization that builds homes for women and families with AIDS.
The event takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. at Congregation Sha’aray Shalom, 1112 Main St., Hingham. For more information, visit thekerryfund.com.
By Mary Whitfill