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Laura Lemunyete shows a preschool class at Salato Primary School a blow-up map of the world in Ngurunit. (Photo taken/submitted by Michele Hermansen)

Local woman and her family making a difference in Africa

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It isn’t often that anyone other than a celebrity sees their name in a magazine, let alone quoted for the good deeds they are doing for the people of Kenya.

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But that is just the situation Laura Sather-Lemunyete, daughter of Irv and Mary Sather of New Richmond, found herself in after the people from Heifer International conducted an interview with her for the organization’s 2013 Holiday edition of the “World Ark” magazine.

“We have had a long-term relationship with the Heifer International,” Lemunyete said. “We do with the model Heifer uses because it works with a lot of other projects that we do as P.E.A.R. as well. With the help of local groups, like the New Richmond United Methodist Church, we have been able to do a lot.”

The article centered around the work Lemunyete and her husband Reuben Lemunyete do for the Participatory Education, Awareness and Resources Innovations (P.E.A.R) group, which the couple founded, as implementing partners with Heifer International.

“This article is about the second camel umbrella, which we started in 2008, and how it expanded from just one group to nine new groups as well,” Lemunyete said. “We upgraded from our original group to a nonprofit and became P.E.A.R. Innovations. We have connected with Heifer for that project and many others and we are putting together our third big project which is ‘Pasture-less Integrative Livestock’ program.”

Even though Lemunyete’s husband is not mentioned in the article, Reuben is a major contributor to the efforts of P.E.A.R.

“He is really important to the work that we do in Kenya,” Lemunyete said. “He helps with a lot of things including the fundraising and other things like that. None of what we do, or I do, would be possible without him.”

The article talks about how the men in Samburu, Kenya, are in charge of the herds of cattle and goats and must leave during the dry seasons to find water for the animals. This leaves the women, children and the elderly to fend for themselves until the men return.

“The women decided that camels would be perfect for them to have at their houses during the dry season because, even at the most dry times, camels produce milk once they give birth,” Lemunyete said in the article. “It’s made a huge difference. It’s amazing what one camel can do for a family.”

To help relieve some of the stress and burden the women of the village endure while the men are away, Lemunyete, P.E.A.R. and Heifer joined together to implement the Samburu Camel Project, which was started in 1999, bringing 531 camels to the Samburu region, according to the magazine.

“It has been closer to 600 camels that we have placed in the region if you count the other groups and organizations that helped bring in some camels during that time,” Lemunyete said. “The great thing about working with Heifer is that their projects work on a ‘pass-back’ system where they give out the livestock and then the people will pass back the first offspring of that livestock, which then goes on to a new family.”

The second umbrella project provided 14 females for the new project and Heifer will buy 300 new camels and more than 4,000 chickens for the new collaboration with P.E.A.R.

“In Kenya, Heifer is based in Nairobi and they were used to working with more fertile areas and they had never really done any range area type projects,” Lemunyete said. “Up in our area where we were working, it is semi-arid and we get around 300-500 millimeters of rain a year. Plus, they had never done a camel project either.”

Lemunyete started her efforts in Africa in 1995 when she connected with a village and found out that they were looking for help with crafts and securing camels. Since then, Lemunyete and her husband Reuben have been helping many different groups of people with many different projects.

“It took about four years for the first proposals I put into Heifer to get the project started in 1998,” Lemunyete said. “We started with training in January 1999, and then not too long after the first camels came. We help the community connect with Heifer and then once we are connected we have been the implementers, sort of the go-between link for these projects.”

However, even though P.E.A.R. works closely with Heifer for their camel projects, it is not the only thing the group does, Lemunyete said.

“Heifer is a good thing, but that is one of the many good things we do as P.E.A.R.,” Lemunyete said. “We are a linking organization and we work with communities to help them figure out where they are at, where they want to be and how to get there. Then we help them do or find the things that they need to get there and reach their goals.”

According to the “World Ark” magazine, giving the gift of a camel costs $850, but Lemunyete says that the actual cost is closer to $900-$1,000 after transportation, as well as adding in the costs of the camel’s medications which it needs to live in a certain region.

“When they collected money for camels back in 2008-09, it was close to $300 I think, but it is now more like $900 for transport and the drugs to get it where you are going,” Lemunyete said.

The Lemunyetes and P.E.A.R. are working on many different projects at any given time, including water projects, education, money making enterprises and environmental conservation.

“We as P.E.A.R. have sections that rely completely on the generosity of the people in New Richmond and all over the world,” Lemunyete said. “The help we get from those people is really important to the good work we can do for the people we work with.”

For more information on Heifer International, visit Heifer.org. To find out more about PEAR Innovations, visit them on Facebook or contact Laura Lemunyete at laura@pearinovations.org.

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Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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