Family Project Helps African Village

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EUGENE, Ore. — A young Eugene woman is serving the Peace Corps in a small African country, and now her parents are pitching in.

Like most parents, Teresa Welch and Ken Rodgers are proud and supportive of their three children. But in 2012, when 25-year-old Lauren Welch Rodgers volunteered for the Peace Corps in the small African nation of Malawi, there wasn’t much the Eugene residents could do.

Now and then Lauren had access to a computer, and she told her parents about the rewards and hardships of her new life.

“Despite the challenges that she’s faced–which include malaria, scorpion stings, being bitten by a rabid dog, lack of reliable food sources–she really feels that she’s contributing to her community in a really beneficial way,” Teresa Welch said.

In March, when Lauren told them of an idea she had to provide waterproof book bags to the children in her village, Ken and Teresa jumped at the chance to help.

“She does need support and encouragement. And being there for her is the best gift she could give me,” said Ken Rodgers, President of Oregon Paddle Sports.

As luck would have it, for Rodgers, a Eugene retailer and manufacturer, water accessories are his specialty. And after a few phones calls to his supplier, Project Monsoon Bookbag was on its way. Made out of vinyl, the bright bags are completely waterproof.

“Closed properly, they’re actually submergible,” Ken Rodgers said.

Welch says the bags are needed because starting in November the rains will turn the countryside into mud, and the flour sacks that children use to carry their meager possessions will begin to rot. For Ken, it all reminds him of the grim joke about walking five miles to school through the snow.

“In Malawi, they walk 10 kilometers through an inch of more of rain. It’s not a joke. And these bags fit their purpose ideally,” he said.

But Lauren and her parents aren’t stopping at empty bags. Each of the bags are stuffed with basic school supplies and hygiene supplies. Teresa says their daughter has done all the hard work.

“All that we have to do is fundraise for her to ship these there and for her to buy these supplies,” Welch said.

The bags have already shipped and should be in the village sometime in October.

If you’d like to help with Project Monsoon Bookbag, an account has been set up at Oregon Community Credit Union or click here to see the group’s Facebook page.

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