ETCETERA - Locals make possible student's trip to Kenya to volunteer

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Not to discount the trials and rigors endured by other continents, but Jake Morgen has had a special place in his heart for the people and cultures in Africa because of "everything the continent has endured over the years."

The Walla Walla High School senior has accelerated his education in order to volunteer in Kenya. That means he jumped into the Running Start program at Walla Walla Community College full time this academic year to complete graduation requirements. He's taking his final quarter online as the needs of Kenyans beckon.

It was as an eighth-grader that Jake read Ishmael Beah's "A Long Way Gone" and his extreme interest in African culture deepened. He said Beah's " memoir of a child soldier's traumatizing experience escaping from Sierra Leone is what introduced me to the reality of places around the globe."

Since then, he has looked for opportunities to understand other cultures while also helping out.

Volunteering through International Volunteer HQ is a good fit for the young man, who moved to Walla Walla as a sophomore from Kansas City.

Through IVHQ, he will live with a host family, work primarily in an orphanage and teach children. "It is crucial for children in an orphanage to receive an education because it is a pertinent factor in helping them overcome their current socioeconomic status by attaining a job with the knowledge of English, math and science," Jake said.

"Working alongside other volunteers and living with a host family will give me the great opportunity to really experience true Kenyan life."

Volunteerism is big in his life. As a sophomore and junior he served in Wa-Hi ASB-student government and was involved with planning numerous school events. "When the earthquake struck Haiti I started a fundraiser for relief efforts that through the help of everyone in ASB turned into many different events to raise money."

Recently, he's been volunteering at the farm labor camps through Children's Home Society and expects to continue the activity this summer.

"However, my volunteering trip to Kenya is bigger than anything I have ever done before because I am traveling to Kenya alone."

While there he and other volunteers will provide seven weeks of assistance for an orphanage.

Jake plans to go to college so is feeling the pinch of financial commitments.

"I didn't have the money to simply pay for the flight and living arrangement fee that this organization requires. I began sending out information to different companies to ask for assistance in my volunteering mission." Many companies couldn't assist, but the folks at Abeja Winery stepped up.

"They were really kind, and so interested in what I was trying to do. With the economy still not being back to its full potential, it meant a lot to have Abeja Winery sponsor me. Abeja became my prime sponsor due to their generosity" In addition "incredible assistance" is coming from Dr. Julie Kellogg of Tietan Dental, Rob Paul of Rob Paul's Salon and Coffey Communications.

"Each one of these companies took the time to be genuinely interested in the cause I was working for and made a huge impact on making my trip possible," Jake said. For more information, contact Jake at 509-876-2082.

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A surprised and deeply touched Dorris "Dodie" Brueggeman received the Washington State University 2011 Mom of the Year Award. It was presented to the College Place resident during the annual Mom's Weekend Brunch April 9.

WSU junior and history major Nikki Brueggeman nominated her mom. She said Dodie encouraged her interest in history by taking her to East Coast historical sites while she was in elementary school and also by encouraging her to study abroad while at WSU.

"I owe my mother everything. If not for this woman, I do not know where I would be. She has raised me, nurtured me, punished me when I deserved it, comforted me and saved my life from myself."

Nikki was adopted by her parents despite many difficulties and discrimination they faced during the process because of Dodie's blindness, Nikki wrote in her nomination.

"Before I was handed into her care, they had one final statement of warning, ‘Mrs. Brueggeman, you do know this little girl is black, correct?' My mother responded that I could have been covered in polka dots and she still would have taken me.

"Because of her blindness my mother was unable to act like a traditional mother, driving me to school or extracurricular activities, but this did not stop her from making sure I was able to have a normal and happy childhood."

An active member in her town and in the blind community, Dodie has been secretary and treasurer of the United Blind of Walla Walla since 1992 and has worked with the organization to bring audible signals to crosswalks in downtown Walla Walla. She also sits on the fundraising committee for the Guide Dog Users of Washington State. Nikki said Dodie is the first blind piano teacher of the Simply Music method, which she teaches to children and adults here.

Besides her job and volunteer work, Dodie has always been involved in her daughter's education. She was active in her elementary school Parent Teacher Association, volunteered time and money at the school cafeteria and is a donor to the Women's Transit Program at WSU.

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Walkers can get their groove on while ambulating for a cause: Children's Home Society of Walla Walla and WalMart Associate Volunteer Program are planning the Relay for Hope: Walk Away Child Abuse. The event kicks off at 5 p.m. May 6 and wraps up at 5 p.m. May 7 at Borleske Stadium.

In addition to the walk-a-thon, the event will feature Family Fun Night and children's Olympics. Family education booths and information on family services will also be included. The fee is $10 per person or $20 per family.

Each participant receives a T-shirt and water bottle, a release from the online Walla Walla Public Schools Week in Review reported.

Proceeds benefit Walla Walla HomeTeam Parent Aide Program, which mentors parents to build healthy families. Stephanie Biegel, HomeTeam coordinator, said, "We encourage you to join us in supporting the prevention of child abuse by participating in the Relay for Hope event this year.

We are excited to offer this fun and educational event to our community for a second year."

To become a corporate sponsor, form a team, receive a walk-a-thon pledge form or for more details, contact Stephanie at 509-529-2130 or stephanieb@chs-wa.org .

Cadet Cpl. Abel Garcia garnered Cadet of the Month for March 2011 honors from Walla Walla High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Blue Devils Cadet Battalion. It earned him an immediate promotion. Abel won the top spot with a total score of 358 points, according to the presiding official on the board. He was tapped from a field of three 15-year-old freshmen candidates who were inspected and examined in oral interviews by a board of four advanced cadets, said Lt. Col. Bill Bialozor, senior Wa-Hi JROTC Army instructor.

Abel joined JROTC because he wants to become a better leader and learn lifelong skills. He plans to join the Army after high school, an item in the Walla Walla Public Schools Week in Review online noted.

"His strongest competitive category was his outstanding military bearing," said Cadet Command Sgt. Maj. Seth Thomas.

First runner-up was Cadet Pvt. 1st Class Joshua Lancaster's strongest suit was his uniform. Second runner-up was Cadet Pvt. 1st Class Kristen Chavre. Her best subject was general military knowledge.

Once the points were tallied, they held a ceremony to promote the winning cadet one rank higher, recognizing his hard work and personal success, Bill said.

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Mackenzie Garton, a 2007 McLoughlin High School alumna, addressed members of the Milton-Freewater Rotary Club at a recent meeting.

The daughter of member Mike Garton, Mackenzie earned a civil engineerging degree in March from Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Ore.

She talked to the groupabout participating in a clean water project undertaken in June 2009, when the OIT student chapter of Engineers Without Borders went to Tanzania. The three students and two professors assessed clean water needs of villagers in the southern part of Tanzania at Songea.

They stayed at St. Maurus Abbey for most of their trip in a remoted area with some electrical power but very few modern conveniences.

She noted that almost everyone used cell phones but there were very few places for them to be charged.

They also formulated plans and established local contacts for future work. Wells were manually drilled to about 60 feet and a pumping system installed by a non-government organization from Denmark about 15 years previously. Lacking replacement parts and tools from local suppliers and without regular maintenance routine instructions, the wells did not have proper maintenance. Instead, villages dug pits that filled with unclean water because the pumps for the wells were broken.

On their second trip in June 2010, they removed and replaced the pump components with a pumping system where components were available in country. They also trained local mechanics in a regular maintenance program and established a water board to collect monthly fees of about 25 cents per family per month for future maintenance costs. They provided a pictorial maintenance manual for villagers, too. Although she won't be going along, Mackenzie said the third trip will be in June when her club will begin installing a slow sand water filtration system at St. Maurus Abbey.

Klamath Falls Rotary Club provided funding for the project using a ‘matching grants' program through Rotary Foundation. Clean water projects are one of the focal points of Rotary International. Mackenzie expressed gratitude for the generous monetary support she received from friends and family. For further information contact Dr. Garton at 541-938-2020 or 541-938-5888.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or 526-8313.

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