YARMOUTH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Dr. Deborah Walters, a 63 year old grandmother from Troy, began her year-long journey to Guatemala this morning when she began paddling from the Yarmouth Boat Launch with a group of friends and well wishers to Portland.
"I am just humbled by the outpouring of support from people," she said as she prepared her kayak for the first leg of the trip. "I am going to be relying on the kindness of strangers, and that is the same for the children in Guatemala, they're relying on the generosity of strangers to really make a difference in their lives."
Walters was inspired to embark on this solo kayaking adventure when she visited Guatemala City and saw the living conditions and lack of opportunities faced by children and their families who are forced to make a living and scrounge for food in the city's dump.
She also saw the work being done by Safe Passage, a Maine-based nonprofit, which is working to educate kids and empower them to lead better lives and rise from poverty.
"We are seeing lives transformed from children working as recyclers in a garbage dump with bulldozers and vultures, to becoming leaders through their education," explained Dave Holman, outreach and communications coordinator for Safe Passage. "We're seeing a transformation from people who didn't have hope, who didn't have much of a future, to people who are in control of their own destiny and self-sufficient. They have no need to immigrate to in another country and are succeeding in their own community."
Walters plans to take the 2500 mile journey day by day, stopping along the way to spread the word about the work Safe Passage is doing. She hopes to touch hearts with her story and encourage people to donate to the cause. All of the money raised will go to the organization as Walters is taking care of her own expenses.
"We are hoping to raise enough money to add third grade to the school this year, and then 3rd and 4th grade to the school next year," said Walters.
While she began her trip today, her official send-off will be on Sunday, July 13th at 2pm at Portland's East End Beach. Walters is hoping people will show up and give her a morale boost before she sets off on her own.
You can follow along with Deb as she makes her way to Guatemala by visiting her website. She has a GPS device that will provide real-time updates on her position and progress and will also be posting blogs about her adventure.