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Gwen Meyer

After graduation from St Andrews Priory, an Episcopal girls' school in Honolulu, Gwen Meyer majored in Latin American studies at the U of Wisconsin. "I planned to join the Peace Corps," says Meyer, who instead stayed in Madison, got married, had two kids, and found a job caring for developmentally disabled women and girls. When the family moved to Eugene in '79, she studied special ed, earned a master's, got divorced, and worked as a special ed researcher until she retired in 2006. In 1996, she met Coast Range sheep farmer John Neumeister at a Zydeco dance class. They were married in 2003. A three-week visit to Kenya in 2002 led the couple to launch a non-profit, Friends of Kenya Schools and Wildlife, to support community development in rural Kenya. Their first project, built in 2004, was a nursery school in the village of Kirepari. Since then, five more schools have been built, and 142 primary school students receive scholarships. FKSW initiated the Malo Wool Project, 45 women who knit little wooly animals. "They have earned 24 thousand dollars," says Meyer, who has made FKSW a full-time unpaid job. "It's fun for me. John and I go back every year. Fifty volunteers have joined us." The public is invited to a celebration of FKSW at Tsunami Books, Thursday, July 7, 6-7:30 pm. Online at fksw.org.

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 7 July 2011

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