BY PETER DORFMAN
In 2013, Morgan Scherer, then a senior at Bloomington High School North, had an idea to raise money to help refugee children in the turbulent Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). His “bold dream,” as he calls it, was to get sponsors for a hike on the northernmost 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail — alone, with his dog, Niko.
Morgan and Niko walked the walk and in the process raised $10,000 for the Bloomington-based nonprofit organization Giving Back to Africa, which fosters education for Congolese children.
Now, three years later, Scherer’s story is being told in a book titled I Just Kept Walking, published by the Bloomington Rotary Club.
The book was conceived of by Giving Back to Africa co-founder Ann Marie Thomson, who met Scherer through the Indiana University student chapter of the organization. “Congolese children walk,” says Thomson, who was born and raised in the DRC. “They walk for miles and miles to get water or to escape refugee camps. Morgan said to me, ‘I wanted to do something for refugee children, and I just … walked.’ Well, I’d heard that all my life. I thought, the kids in the refugee camps need to know that Morgan walked for them.”
Thomson engaged Elsa Marston, the author of more than 20 children’s and young adult books, to write Scherer’s story. “Morgan’s hike actually went very smoothly — I didn’t want to completely fictionalize it to make the story more exciting,” Marston says.
Instead, she added a parallel fictional plotline involving a young Congolese boy named Mobembo whose family becomes refugees from political violence. “Mobembo walks to save his family’s lives,” Marston explains, “while Morgan walks to support their schooling.”
The Rotary Club in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, has already identified a publishing house for a French translation, and Giving Back to Africa will get the book into as many Congolese schools as possible. “We intend to create curriculum around the book for Congolese students,” Thomson says.
Scherer, now a junior at IU majoring in environmental management, continues to dream big. He hopes one day to hike in the mountains of eastern Congo.
The book, aimed at fifth-grade-level readers, is available for $30 at ijustkeptwalking.org.