Globetrotting UA student Laura Hartstone, 22, is one of two Americans in a group of a dozen women who will climb three African peaks in quick succession to raise money for a trio of causes. All of the women in the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks Challenge are amateurs who will ascend Mount Kenya, Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro in January 2007. Hartstone said they'll be doing something that has never been done before in the hopes that people give generously. To find out more about the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks Challenge or to donate, visit www.3peaks3weeks.org.

Tell me a little about the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks Challenge.

Basically, I was living in east Africa last year. I met an Australian girl (Chloe Chick) over there, and we were always meeting and talking about how to help Africa. There are so many problems, and there are so many people trying to help. But it's not always helpful. The one thing we thought we saw really improving in development was education. We kind of used that as our foundation. ... We decided to try and come up with a creative way to raise money, so we came up with climbing three mountain peaks in Africa. People are doing a lot of charity climbs these days and stuff like that, but we wanted it to also be the first event of its kind. We'll be the first female team to do what we're doing in less than three weeks.

Where will the money be going?

We chose three causes to support, which are HIV/AIDS, the environment and overall secondary education.

Why did you choose those three areas?

It was basically through talking. She (Chick) was working with a school, and we had traveled through southern Africa and really saw how much education helped. We were originally going to do education, HIV/AIDS education and environmental education. But we eventually decided to just go with the three causes I mentioned, which were things we really thought needed attention.

Why were you in east Africa?

I was working with an HIV/AIDS organization, so I did about three months--I took 18 students from university over there to do volunteer work. I would bring orphans over to the school, and that's where I met Chloe, who was the education leader. Then, we were traveling (separately) through Mozambique, and we randomly met on the beach, and I said, "You know, we've got to do something more." And she said, "Yeah, yeah." So I said, "When you get back to Tanzania, I have a proposal for you." She said, "Yeah, I have a proposal for you." We met back in Tanzania, and my proposal was kind of lame, so we threw it out the window. But hers was this three peaks idea.

What was your proposal?

(Laughs.) Mine was to drive around the world. We had seen a car that was driving around the world, and it looked really cool, and they had sponsorship. We thought we could do that to raise money. ... But with Chloe's (idea), we saw seven women climbing a volcano over there that we had already climbed. It's a difficult climb, but it's not that hard. They were completely decked out in sponsorship and gear, but that's all they were doing. We thought we could do that, but make it a better challenge and raise money. After we chose those causes, we chose three organizations that were working in those fields.

What are the organizations?

For education, it's the School of St. Jude. It's a small school in northeastern Tanzania. Basically, it started four years ago with three students, and now it has more than 500. The kids are progressing through elementary school, but they need a secondary school. So we're getting funding to build a secondary school in 2008. Within each cause, there's an organization; within each organization, there's a specific project we're funding.

What about the other two causes?

With HIV/AIDS, the organization is called Students for International Change. The specific project is funding an HIV/AIDS mobile testing unit. With the environment, we're kind of up in the air, but the outlined organization is called the Laikipia Wildlife Forum. The specific project is conservation and development. Mixed in with those two, we're working with sustainable agriculture and farmers and stuff like that.

Why are you personally concerned with Africa?

I think it just comes from living there. I went two years ago for the first time, right after my freshman year at the university. Even talking to people here about HIV/AIDS, it's hard to imagine it. Once you get there, it's ridiculous--it's everywhere. Until you see it, it's really, really hard to believe it. After I came back the first time, I wasn't even the same person. It's hard to forget any of the images of the people you meet.

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