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Volunteer headed to Kenya seeks donations

As a frequent traveler in strange countries, Laura Meredith has come to expect foreign hospitality and friendship. This time, she wants to give something back.

The 22-year-old Phoenix High School graduate will head for Kenya Sept. — with fellow members of the outdoor adventures program at California Polytechnic State University. After two weeks of touring the country, Meredith and friend Diana Collins will travel to the Bomet region of Kenya to build a Habitat for Humanity house.

Meredith will pay the expenses of her trip, but she hopes to raise &

36;1,500 to sponsor a house and cover administrative costs. With the help of friends and family, she's already raised &

36;700.She doesn't know which village she'll be working in, or what family she'll stay with, but she says that's part of the adventure, that you don't really know. In preparation for the trip, she has learned some Swahili phrases and is confident she'll pick up more of the language once she is immersed.

Meredith had been waiting for a chance to visit Africa since meeting African students during a six-month internship in Germany last year. One from Nigeria became her best friend. She also started corresponding with a student at the University of Kenya in Nairobi through the Student World Assembly, an online forum that connects universities to discuss worldwide issues. Meredith hopes to meet him in Kenya as well.

Meredith will spend the first two weeks hiking, rock-climbing, and taking a safari tour. The outdoor adventure will culminate in a five-day backpacking trip around Mount Kenya ' the second tallest mountain in Africa ' and an attempt to scale the 17,000-foot peak.

After she had committed to Cal Poly's outdoor program expedition in Kenya, Meredith contacted Habitat for Humanity about volunteering while she's there.

Habitat houses are built with concrete floors and foundations and walls of rough stone, fired brick or stabilized soil with a corrugated iron sheet roof. The dwellings are about 20 to 49 square meters in size. Families are expected to slowly pay back the cost of their house, about &

36;900, and to help build both their house and their neighbor's house.

— A photo-exchange program is planned, so donors can include a picture of themselves to send to the new home's residents and receive a photo of the Kenyan family upon Meredith's return in October. Tax-deductible donations can be made out to Habitat for Humanity International with 'Kenya' written on the memo line.

— Contact Meredith for a donation form and letter at ice9laura@yahoo.com. Checks can be sent to Laura Meredith at 3200 Camp Baker Road, Medford, OR 97502. For more information about Habitat for Humanity in Kenya, visit .

Lindsay Gasik is a junior at St. Mary's High School and intern . She can be reached at rosefaerie_9@ hotmail.com.