SUMMER, 1971. A naïve young man must decide his path upon graduation from a small university in Colorado. Amidst the turmoil of the counterculture years and the looming possibility of being sent to Vietnam, he concludes that he wants to travel, serve, and, if possible, save the world.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer Mark embarks on a vigorous cross cultural experience in a Caribbean and two Central American countries, with a final stop in one of the more isolated areas of the highlands of Guatemala. Though beset with a fear of the unknown and feelings of profound isolation due to being the only Volunteer in a remote village, he eventually gets to know and appreciate the people of the rural communities he is privileged to live among.
After a near-death experience takes him to another part of Guatemala and eventually to a horse town, Mark meets the love of his life, Ligia, who will bear him three children and be part of a lifelong commitment to and appreciation of this beautiful and unique country. Much of their courtship takes place on a coffee plantation owned by Ligia’s family, where Mark experiences a different side of Guatemalan society.
While Ligia selflessly abandons her own career to focus on establishing a stable bi-cultural home for their three children during the violent Guatemalan Civil War, Mark’s “wanderlust” takes him on a four-month solo trek through Latin America and then a country change based on threats from a guerrilla group. Mark’s thirteen-year career promoting rural development through various international NGOs begins when he sets up a local development agency in Guatemala to help the poorest of the poor, whose plight is at least partially due to the policies of his own government.
Eventually family circumstances force a radical career change for Mark and a return to the US with his family to begin a thirty-year calling. Inspired by the “extreme do-gooders” he had met along his journey, he takes some of the wealthiest American families in the world to meet some of the world’s poorest in some of the most isolated, unstable countries. This leads to many adventures, with both wealthy and poor growing from their shared experiences.
Mark’s career comes to a sudden and unexpected turn after he is let go as the CEO of one of these international NGOs, and this frees him up to focus on his three children and his six grandchildren. This twist in the road also provides a new opportunity to reflect on what he has accomplished, where he’s failed, and where the international NGO community has come up short.
Different Latitudes is more than a travel memoir. It is a tale his of physical and spiritual self-discovery experienced through the topography, cuisine, politics, and history in Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia.
MR. WALKER IS A SEASONED development leader who makes presentations in both Spanish and English. He is dedicated to promoting international collaboration amongst organizations. He is known as an outstanding trainer, facilitator and team builder with an ability to inspire others to excel. His fundraising specialties include major gifts, planned giving, foundations, case and board development, and campaign and international fundraising. Walker is the founder of Fund Development Innovations, LLC. and a VP and Senior Counsel for Carlton & Company. He served as CEO of Hagar USA, an international Christian organization dedicated to the recovery of survivors of human trafficking. Prior to that, Mark was the Vice-President of Make-A-Wish Foundation International and Senior Director at Food for the Hungry and MAP International.
MR WALKER HOLDS A B.A. from Western State University in Gunnison, Colorado as well as a masters degree in Sociology and Economics from the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas in Austin. Mark is the Past President of the Greater Arizona chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Planned Giving Roundtable of Arizona, and has been a presenter at the Hemispheric Congress for Fundraising in Mexico City. His honors include the “Service Above Self” Award from Rotary International. Mark and his wife, Ligia, reside in Scottsdale, Arizona with their three children.
THE AUTHOR DECIDED to write about his experiences to help other RPCV’s appreciate the impact of their own experiences and to consider sharing them with others. Walker also wanted to inspire students and young professionals considering a career in international development. The acknowledgment of his book is three pages long presenting all the different types of people who helped him write it. Several of the members of his Peace Corps group in Guatemala helped him reconstruct the early story of the training process. Several RPCV authors provided invaluable insights on all levels of the writing and publishing process. A number of friends with whom the author worked abroad or who still work and live in Guatemala provided important historic information and details. His Guatemalan wife Ligia as always was the editor-in-chief.