A Bridge, A Pipe & A Lunch | A Civil Look At Civics | Erin Glanville | Almanac Online |

Local Blogs

A Civil Look At Civics

By Erin Glanville

About this blog: While state and federal politics dominate the headlines, local issues have an enormous impact on our everyday lives. This blog will attempt to shine a light on topics of public interest and facilitate greater participation in the ...  (More)

View all posts from Erin Glanville

A Bridge, A Pipe & A Lunch

Uploaded: Mar 18, 2015

Brothers Sam, Reid and Tate Vaughan, all students at local Menlo Park schools, embarked on the service project of a lifetime this past January. They traveled with their parents, Laura and Brannan Vaughan, to Moshi, Tanzania for six months in order to learn more about the culture, research local needs, and identify a service project that the family could become involved for the duration of their stay and beyond.

Day-to-day life for the Vaughan family couldn't be more different than the one they left here. While learning Swahili, they are coming to appreciate basic comforts like not having to contend with daily fluctuation in electricity and water (e.g. they have gotten used to using candles and bucket showers).

Despite the differences, the family quickly fell in love with the area and the people they have met there. Figuring out how to give back to the community they have adopted as their second home was the hard part; poverty is so omnipresent that trying to make a difference feels like trying to boil the ocean. So, according to Laura, the family decided to let the boys follow their hearts in taking responsibility for a very specific project to work on, with Laura and Brannan providing the technical website and nonprofit organizational support. The end result is "a bridge, a pipe, and a lunch."

A Bridge
Fourth grader Tate Vaughan has found a bridge that he wants to save from collapse. According to the family's website documenting their journey, "This bridge is crucial for locals to cross the Weruweru River, which swells during the rainy season from March-May. Tate's goal is to raise another $3200 of $5000 for the bridge re-construction. Without this bridge, many people in the neighboring village of Kimashuku will be at risk because of the danger associated with swimming across to get supplies."

A Pipe
Reid Vaughan, a fifth grader, has chosen to raise funds to install a water pipe at Mlima Public Elementary School. He was surprised and concerned when he learned that the students there must come to school each day (sometimes walking up to 2 miles to get there) carrying a bucket of water because there is no plumbing or running water. This water is the only water the students have to drink and wash with during the day. To build a mile long water pipe to the school will cost $2500. Reid is determined to raise the money to accomplish that.

A Lunch
Their oldest son, Sam, has chosen to support a lunch program for Mlima School. When Sam and his younger brother, Reid visited the school, Sam was shocked to learn that the students there had nothing to eat during the long school day. Working with local contacts, he learned that when schools there are able to serve lunch, school attendance and student performance improve. He is therefore determined to raise $1500 a year for the foreseeable future in order to allow the school to buy enough corn, beans, salt and oil for the students to eat lunch everyday at school throughout the academic year.

Making It Happen
To fundraise, each of the boys have written their classes mates and friends at home and posted video presentations and descriptions of their projects proposals online. They have also embarked on selling locally made goods (bracelets, toys, purses, etc.) back home to raise money. Finally, their parents are in the process of starting a 501(c)(3) in California called "Lalafofofo.org" (Swahili for "sleep peacefully") to help manage the financials and have set up crowd-funding websites for all three projects.

Anyone interested in learning more about their projects or who would like to contribute to funding "a bridge, a pipe or a lunch" can find more information here:

Family Blog At: siliconvalleytotanzania.com
Donate To The Kimashuku Bridge Project
Donate To The Mlima School Water Pipe
Donate To The Mlima School Lunch Program

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Erin Glanville, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Mar 18, 2015 at 1:36 pm

Erin Glanville is a registered user.

Posted by pearl, a resident of another community,
on Mar 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Nice, but why doesn't the Vaughan family stay right here in America, and do the same thing? Our country has so many problems no one's doing anything about; why not stay home and do the same thing here. Why travel a gazillion miles to some foreign country, where what they need first and foremost is to establish a birth control program, and improve health care for their populace. How is traveling to Tanzania going to benefit the United States of America? Here in America, we have tons of school kids who don't have enough to eat. How about addressing the water problems we have here in our own state of California where a worsening drought is fast posing frightening water shortages across our vast farmlands. And, bridges? A huge number of bridges right here in the United States are in need of serious repair; some have even been condemned because they are on the verge of collapse. There are a number of bridges in our local and national parks that are in need of major improvements. Why travel thousands of miles to improve conditions in a foreign land, when you have the same conditions, and more, right here in America that need improvement? Just sayin?, folks.

Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Mar 18, 2015 at 2:22 pm

To compare conditions for the poor in America with those in other lands such as Africa is simply laughable, Pearl. Perhaps you should travel to some of these places. You'll soon learn what real poverty is.

Posted by pearl, a resident of another community,
on Mar 18, 2015 at 5:15 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Joseph E. Davis: I don't doubt your word. I believe you. What the Vaughan family is doing is commendable. But, when our own country is in dire need of help in so many areas, why would one travel thousands of miles to some other country to offer one's services, when they could make a much-needed contribution, and positive difference in the lives of their fellow Americans right here at home.

Posted by Joseph E. Davis, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on Mar 18, 2015 at 5:17 pm

There is a very simple answer. The poor in many other countries are much poorer and are suffering much more than the poor in America. So it may very well be best overall for humanity to help them instead of local Americans.

Posted by Member, a resident of another community,
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:28 pm


McDowell et al. (2012) explained how learning should aim to move beyond one-dimensional, traditional approaches, by engaging in cultures that are different than one?s own. The benefits for the university student described below apply equally to those like Tate, Reid, and Sam.

Understanding the lived experience of, and building relationships with, members of other countries and cultural backgrounds encourages us to (a) become more aware of our own biases and assumptions, (b) enhance possibilities for ourselves and those we work with through discovering new perspectives and ways of life, (c) expand our repertoire of approaches through exposure to professional practices in other cultures, and (d) become better prepared to facilitate social change.

Learning here is much more than building a bridge or laying a pipeline, ? though action is certainly a part of a truly holistic approach to learning ? it engenders a level of understanding through shared experience, consciousness for others, and mutual respect; moving outside of comfort zones to see the world through someone else?s eyes.

Joseph, I see your point, but remember also that there is wealth, joy, happiness, community, and many steps on the socio-economic ladder among countries in Africa as well. Pearl?s point about suffering is a good one, for suffering needs to be addressed no matter where it is. It is the learning experience that accompanies travel, work within a community, and understanding people who are different from you, that is so valuable, but that can be done at home or abroad. Both are necessary, but certainly travel is impossible for many. The overarching point is to do something, some action, rather than nothing at all.

McDowell, T., Goessling, K., & Melendez, T. (2012). Transformative learning through international immersion: Building multicultural competence in family therapy and counseling. Journal of Marital & Family Therapy, 38, 365-379.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Mar 21, 2015 at 6:28 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As Joseph Davis points out you can get a lot more value from spending a $ helping people in Kenya or Bhutan than you can helping people in the US - it is the greater good.

Posted by pearl, a resident of another community,
on Mar 21, 2015 at 2:06 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Peter - In the immediate, you might get more bang for your buck serving the people in a foreign land, but, after the volunteers are gone and the touchy-feely feelings begin to fade, that do-good project becomes but a blip on the tv screen. Whereas, if we serve causes here in our own country, it strengthens and builds us up as a world leader not to be reckoned with by those who would attempt to take us over, as we are currently seeing in many other parts of the world.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Mar 22, 2015 at 10:45 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"that do-good project becomes but a blip on the tv screen"

Not if done wisely; I know of hundreds of long term successes with such "investments" in people.

Posted by Laura Vaughan, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Mar 26, 2015 at 10:16 pm

We are all part of a global world of humanity. Whether it is in the Bay Area, California, the US or Africa, there are needs all over the planet, and we chose these here in Tanzania. Teaching our children about compassion for people who are in need and who live in a different culture is an experience we hope they will internalize for life. Who and where they decide to continue their service as they grow up will be their choice and I look forward to seeing where it takes them. We are all interconnected as people in this world and the next generations even more so. Feeding children at school and making sure they have water to drink are elemental, and there are no social services here in Tanzania or governmental programs to do this. The US and the bay area have many services; we have an underlying network of food banks, church programs, government-assisted lunch programs, food stamps, and other organizations to care of our school children. Many communities here in Tanzania have nothing. No one is coming to help feed the students at Mlima Shabaha Shule lunch or water. I am so glad that our children were able to understand and connect with these students, and we are looking forward to delivering the corn and beans to the school today. Seeing this grow into a long-term program that extends to other neighboring schools beyond Mlima Shabaha until Tanzania is able to do it for itself will be an ongoing experience for our family, and we are grateful that our children are learning that they are active global citizens that should, and can help others in need where ever that may be.
Asante Sana

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Almanac Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Pescadero’s farmworkers can’t afford the food they’re growing for the Peninsula
By The Peninsula Foodist | 6 comments | 3,880 views

We need an audit of city spending
By Diana Diamond | 11 comments | 2,171 views