In the news.
1. ASYV Supporter Spotlight: Village spotlight on Broadway, interview with Mikey Walker
Mikey Walker is the president of the Kerry Jon Walker Fund, whose mission is to promote humanitarian programs that improve health, education, and economic opportunity for vulnerable people in the United States and Africa. Through her work at the Fund, Mikey has been leading underserved Boston youth on service-learning trips to the Village since 2013. By providing young people with this opportunity for cultural exchange, Mikey highlights their capacity to give and receive from others – to celebrate both our shared humanity and what makes each of us unique. In addition, trip participants work together to fundraise for ASYV students and collect supplies, which they deliver during their stay to support the Village’s programs.
Mikey worked in teaching and business before finding her calling in school leadership. In 1995, she joined Old Colony Montessori in Hingham, Massachusetts as the Head of School, where she has been ever since.
Q: How did you first get involved with ASYV?
Mikey: The story of my journey to ASYV actually began with the passing of my son, for which the Kerry Fund is named. During the very early time of my heart’s healing, I made trips with a friend to his home village in Guinea, West Africa. These trips literally shifted my soul. Trip after trip we made, purchasing school uniforms, registering children in schools, and bringing books, medicines, clothes and supplies. The more I allowed my heart to pour into giving, the more my heart healed. Tikkun Olam. It was then that I also began to think about the privilege it was to be able to see the world in this bigger way, and to share in this kind of experience. I started to think about the many kids in our own country who were too poor to see the world beyond their own neighborhoods, too poor to realize how much they also had to give. Realizing that I wanted to provide our vulnerable youth with an experience well beyond their reach was how The Kerry Fund was born.
In 2012, the Kerry Fund acquired a large donation of children’s books in French, and three students from Boston were selected to participate on our first mission trip. Our original journey was to Guinea, where the books would be distributed to village schools. As fate would have it, though, a new election year caused upheaval in the streets and the temporary closing of the U.S. Embassy. I was devastated but knew I could not bring these kids with me to Guinea.
It was through a friend that I learned of ASYV. The more she told me about the Village, the more interested I became, and in June of 2013, those three Boston students made their first trip to Africa. Little did I know at the time that the mission of ASYV and the mission of The Kerry Fund were so completely aligned, and that The Kerry Fund and ASYV would become intertwined as partners in helping the young. The greatest blessing came from being able to help support the mission of ASYV, while building a bridge for our less financially able Boston students to see the world through bigger eyes.
"The Anne Heyman Spirit Award honors those who demonstrate the best of what makes ASYV a family: passion, dedication, and love for the Village's kids."
Q: What is a memory that stays with you from your trips to the Village?
Mikey: My first memory of the Village is wrapped up in the joy of meeting [ASYV’s founder] Anne. She greeted us soon after our arrival and spent hours with us on the lawn in front of our guest house. We talked about the Village, the vulnerabilities of the children who lived there, how the Village was structured, its growing needs and future goals. We were so honored to have her with us, and she glowed with the knowledge of having created something so important in this world. I carry that moment in my heart always, as an honor, and a blessing.
Q: What changes have you seen at ASYV over the course of your visits?
Mikey: ASYV is in continual bloom. I did fear after Anne’s passing that the soul and spirit that filled ASYV with love would somehow slip away, but that is surely not the case. The seeds she planted were seeds of longevity and strength, and the dedicated commitment of the people who carry the mission forward have nurtured ASYV’s growth. From the farm and gardens for food sustainability, to new classes in cooking, photography, art and technology, ASYV is ever expanding to meet the needs of its young people. Each year there is a new surprise, such as the spigots for fresh water now everywhere in the Village.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about your involvement with the Village?
Mikey: 2018 will mark our 6th annual trip to ASYV, and I am as excited now as I was the first time. I love being at ASYV because it is truly a place for our world’s most vulnerable youth to thrive, to grow, to become the best at who they are. ASYV provides kids with every forum imaginable for learning and self-expression. It’s been a joy to watch the ASYV kids grow over the years into confident and competent young men and women.
I am blessed to bring kids who might never have had the opportunity to see the world through a global perspective to ASYV. ASYV shows my Boston kids that there are others who have had to struggle to survive, who are happy and grateful and work hard to succeed. ASYV teaches them to not take any of life’s opportunities for granted, and that we all have something to give, to share, and to learn from one another. These kids are going to ASYV on a mission to serve, but what they receive from ASYV is a gift for life.
Q: Anything else the ASYV family should know about you?
Mikey: I am a bit of a spiritual person. Without having any answers, I believe in all the magic and wonder and mystery of life, and that each of us, when we find it, has a purpose. How lucky I’ve been to connect with the beautiful purpose of ASYV.
2. 2018 South Shore People to Watch.
Mikey Walker, the head of school at Old Colony Montessori in Hingham, is known for her spectacular smile, passion for education and commitment to civic work. She is the founder of the Kerry Jon Walker Fund, a nonprofit organization created in memory of her late son, which aims to bring awareness to the devastating poverty faced by children in West Africa. The group, which was recently named a Cummings Foundation $100K for 100 award recipient, has shipped thousands of pounds of books, educational supplies, medicine, clothing, toys and eye glasses to the country of Guinea and holds annual mission trips.
Last summer, the fund sponsored five underprivileged Boston students so that they could travel abroad and give back to orphaned teens at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda. The trips are both educational and enlightening for students, promoting intercultural sensitivity and providing them with a sense of satisfaction from being able to help others. By exposing young people to these opportunities, Walker is helping to nurture the next generation of global citizens.
3. Hull woman finds healing through service trips.
Mikey Walker’s foundation takes Boston students to Africa for service work and international learning.
HINGHAM – 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.”
To raise money for the trip, which is a little less than three weeks long and leaves at the end of June, Walker is hosting an art auction and Rwandan market in Hingham on Saturday, Nov. 18.
“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.”
The evening includes music by John Walker and the Monks of Funk, food provided by The Hart Brothers, a cash bar, a silent and live auction and a Rwandan Market of hand-crafted wares. Local artists have donated their work to the event, including an acrylic painting by Tayla Fitzpatrick of Bsoton’s Artists for Humanity and a mosaic by Hull’s Nanci Jaye.
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 may be reached at email@example.com.