PORTLAND, Maine and PORTSMOUTH, New Hampshire (July 22, 2014)—Deb Walters, a retired cognitive scientist and university vice president with a Ph.D. in Neurocommunications, is a grandmother of four. She paddled away from Portland on July 13 for a yearlong journey to Guatemala to raise awareness and money for the children and families supported by Safe Passage who live around the Guatemala City garbage dump. Walters celebrated a successful launch attended by friends and family, Safe Passage and City of Portland representatives, sponsors, members of the press, and a team of public supporters. She is scheduled to land in Portsmouth, New Hampshire today, July 22, between 1:00 and 2:30 pm, completing the first leg of this incredible journey as she crosses into New Hampshire.
Walters, an experienced kayaker and avid adventurer, is tackling more than 2,500 miles in her expedition. For those who call her voyage ahead challenging, Walters offers a different perspective. “If you look at the whole task, it can be daunting, yes. But if you look at a little piece, it’s easy,” Walters explained. “It’s like knitting. I love digging into a huge knitting project, but it’s one stitch at a time. And then you just repeat it, and repeat it. What’s exciting to me is getting an idea going and inspiring others to join in.”
All donations Walters raises will go directly to Safe Passage, a Maine-based nonprofit started by the late Hanley Denning of Yarmouth to work toward helping the children of the dump community in Guatemala, specifically through the power of education. With international support, Safe Passage now provides nearly 600 children with a comprehensive and integrated program that fosters hope, good health, educational achievement, self-sufficiency, self-esteem and confidence. “This expedition is really important because we’re a grass roots organization that depends on thousands of supporters,” said Richard Howe, chairman of Board of Directors at Safe Passage. “Deb is spreading the word literally throughout the world.”
“I believe ordinary people can do great things,” said Walters, who is actively involved with Rotary International leadership, where she learned about Safe Passage. She visited the dump nine years ago, and her commitment was cinched. She began volunteering and helping to write grants for the organization; Walters eventually became a member of the Safe Passage board, and its president. “Once I went down there and met the parents of these children, I knew I had to help. I was hooked,” she says. “Their grit and perseverance inspired me, and it’s these qualities that will empower me to complete this long journey.”
People are able to sign up to help or contribute in a variety of ways – including inviting Deb to spend the night, organizing a speaking engagement, or sponsoring her for a certain amount of money per mile – at KayakForSafePassageKids.org.