West Linn High School bridges the gap to Africa

At the turn of the century, a man named Barry Childs had a vision of helping others in need. So big in fact, that he left a stable job at Abbott Laboratories, a global pharmaceutical and health care product company, to found  the local nonprofit organization Africa Bridge with some of his co workers.

Childs was born in Tanzania and after quitting his job decided to return to Africa. What he found there astounded him as he witnessed first-hand the poverty and terrible living conditions  in which orphaned children were living. Many of these children became orphaned when their parents died from HIV/AIDS. This trip served as a wake up call to Childs, who decided to be a solution to the growing problem in Africa.

Africa Bridge is that solution. Africa Bridge seeks to improve the lives of impoverished and orphaned children in many ways, like building and refurbishing schoolhouses, providing school uniforms to the children and setting up electricity in the buildings.

However, the organization doesn’t just help the children. Another of their primary focuses is to develop a local infrastructure which would allow for the village to become self-sufficient. This means teaching the villagers things like efficient farming in order to create sustainability. Meetings held with village elders, children and women, help to decide what the village needs most. Africa Bridge spends five years in the village and hopes that its time there provides the village with what they need to make it on their own.

Africa Bridge is located out of Marylhurst University and has been collaborating with schools in West Linn since 2004.  Oliver Muggli, senior, remembers when his fourth grade class at Willamette Primary school helped to raise money for a village in Africa.

“We raised about $2,000 dollars, mostly school supplies, for a village called Idwelli,” Muggli said.

Helping out others in need had a big influence on Muggli and he didn’t stop at some classroom fundraisers.

“I helped out with Africa Bridge a little in middle school, mainly just making  some informational videos for them to show others, but  in ninth grade I was asked to serve on the board of directors as a student ambassador,” Muggli said. “I help to provide a Child’s insight for an organization centered around children.”

The board of directors consists of  a variety of positions, from accountants and businessmen to charity workers. All positions collaborate together to accomplish the goals set by Africa Bridge.

Some of these goals are set very high, like creating a “perfect Africa” without the problems that the majority of the continent faces such as poverty, hunger, and disease. Others include making Africa Bridge a lasting organization that continues to help for many years to come.

In 2010, Childs received the Purpose Prize along with $100,000 for his work in addressing critical problems in society. But Africa Bridge didn’t start off with all of its success. The first project the organization completed was creating an orphanage for those who lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. This was not much of a success and it was soon realized that Africa Bridge needed to go in a new direction.

That was when it was the idea arose that the best way to help a village was to focus on building an infrastructure that would help everyone in the village survive.  What Childs soon discovered was that many of these orphaned children were taken in by other families in the village who were already struggling to provide for themselves. If he could help these people become self-sufficient, then everyone would benefit, including the kids. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.  

Soon Childs will be making one of his two trips to Tanzania this year. He will bring employees and a few members from the board of directors, including Muggli.  They will be gone for roughly two weeks to help make a video for Africa bridge that shows its role in the villages, it’s process of sustainable improvement and the results of five years of work.

This year, Link Crew will be partnering with Africa Bridge.

“We are trying to get the word out, raise awareness, and reach more people,” Muggli said. “Many hands make light work.”

To start with, an iPad will be auctioned off to raise money for Africa Bridge. In the future, larger fundraisers and learning projects will be used to help out the organization.

“We hope to raise $10,000 dollars to build a new classroom,” Jonathan Peachey, Link Crew adviser, said. “We have been quietly working with Africa Bridge for almost 10 years, but not anymore. Now we are going to be loud about it.”