OXFORD – When Ron Laing of Oxford went to Kenya in 2005, taking photos of the African landscape was not his top priority.

“I took limited camera supplies,” Laing said. “I knew that I’d just be able to catch whatever pictures I could.”

Laing, who started taking photos when he was 7 years old and is a member of several camera clubs, worked for 35 years as the physical plant manager for a Massachusetts hospital.

He went to Kenya to spend three weeks with the Maasai people, finishing construction work on a clinic about six miles from the Tanzanian border as part of a mission project.

One day, as he was taking photos, he met a young girl and asked her why she wasn’t in school. The girl replied that her clothes were no good. While education is free in Kenya, students are required to wear uniforms that cost about $18.

“They kind of hang around the bushes, waiting for their friends to get out of school,” said Laing of the children who are unable to afford uniforms.

While he never got the girl’s name, Laing said she inspired him. During the flight back to the United States, he decided he was going to write a book about his experiences.

The result is “An African Adventure,” a book whose proceeds go toward purchasing uniforms for the children. Notecards featuring the African photos benefit the same cause.

During his time in Kenya, Laing took dozens of photos: night watchmen armed with poison arrows, a newly married couple, grazing giraffes, and others, many of which have won him awards.

While he only submitted a small portion of the photos when the book went to a printer, the collection gradually grew.

“Everything I sent they wanted in the book,” Laing said.

Laing said the printer, L. Brown & Sons Printing Inc. in Barre, Vt., offered to do the printing at no cost. Laing said it cost him about $7,500 to make up the books. Most of the books have sold, and he said he will do a second printing.

“It’s almost overwhelming when you think of all the people in the world who need some kind of care,” Laing said. “And yet if everybody does something, it makes a difference.”

Each book sold offsets the cost of a school uniform. Laing, who lives at 79 Pine Point Road, said the books are available at Books N Things in Norway or may be purchased by contacting him. Donations may also be made directly to Outpost Centers International at 5340 Layton Lane in Apison, Tenn.

Laing said he has gone on mission trips before, but ranked the trip to Kenya as “No. 1 on the list of any place I’ve ever been.”

“Everybody ought to go on one mission trip,” Laing said. “You never come back the same person.”


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