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Africa calls Newport woman for guidance
By Richard Steffy, Staff Writer


  Despite all of the world she has seen in her travels something keeps bringing Nancy Walker back to Perry County. The fourth generation citizen of Newport is preparing for another trip to Africa where she will leave her mark then, as she always has before, return.
  "I have the world's longest umbilical cord," said Walker. "I keep coming back here."
  Here, is a farm outside Newport where Walker does international consulting. She also is a grant writer and substitute teacher for the Greenwood School District.
  Walker, actually Dr. Nancy Walker, has a Ph.D. in agricultural and extension education. Her degree and her desire to help others keeps her traveling to third world and underdeveloped countries to teach teamwork, farming techniques and family planning to native women.
  The farm that will be Walker's legacy also is her current home. Living with her parents, she has made the old pump house her work area and sanctuary. African statues, baskets and other woven goods decorate the area.
  The artifacts are not exactly native to this region, but the native who brought them here keeps in contact with the people and the regions they came from. "To be able to reach out from this little place and reach out across the world is mind-boggling," she said.
  Walker's trip will take her to Awassa, a town in Ethiopia for three or four weeks. Her goal will be to teach native women in rural areas environmentally friendly farming techniques which ideally will increase food production and financial security.
Her responsibilities also will include nutrition education and family planning, "so they won't be so overwhelmed with children," she said.
  According to Walker, "Eighty to ninety percent of agriculture is done by women." She said the men, formerly hunters, now go to the city to find work, leaving the women at home to tend farm and children. Her job is to teach the women in Ethiopia how to determine their resources, and, "how to involve people in determining their own destiny," she said.
  Walker's destiny has taken her across the globe on a mission of teaching and helping. At the age of 21, Walker, a Newport High School graduate, got her first job as a teacher in a fishing village off the coast of Newfoundland.
  After finishing what she described as "quite an experience," Walker spent six months in India with a 4-H exchange program.
Canada and India were not enough to quench her wanderlust. "I've lived most of my adult life overseas," said Walker.
  After her gig in India, Walker joined the Peace Corps. She spent five years with the Peace Corps in the Philippines. "I'm a real internationalist," she said.
  Between all her travels to places like Uganda, Siberia and India, Walker got her Ph.D. from Penn State. She also made a family of friends, including a goddaughter in Uganda who bears her name. "They call her Little Nancy."
  Walker related a story, which most would only ever see on the news. Uganda in the mid-1980s put Walker in the middle of a war that left her a refugee in bordering Kenya for a month. "We were evacuated by British military." During the evacuation everybody and everything was draped in UN flags to let people know not to shoot, she said.
  However, the thought of entering a third world country doesn't frighten Walker. "I'm more afraid of Harrisburg than to go into these other countries."
  Her years at the Peace Corps gave her the philosophy with which she lives her life, and will continue to live reaching out from her ancestral home.
  The three objectives or goals of the Peace Corps are: share technical expertise, learn about the country, and allow the countrymen to learn about you and to bring back what you have learned to the United States to share.


Last updated 7 March 2001
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