By the Book
Home | Gutsy Leaders | Generous Travelers | By the Book
By the Book

Carolyn and Lawrence Broeren involve their whole family in helping a Tanzanian school

"We've always wanted to help with education," says Carolyn Broeren of Roseville, California. As it happens, she and her husband Lawrence used the occasion of their 50th anniversary to give their grandchildren a very good lesson in giving.

The Broerens wanted to take their family on a trip to celebrate their landmark anniversary. Avid birders, they decided on a bird-watching paradise—Tanzania—as the destination. And because OAT specializes in small-group travel, they were able to arrange a virtual private tour. Joining them were their two children and their families, a 20-year-old nephew who had never left California before, and several friends.

Their Trip Leader, Ronald Ngowe, was "outstanding," according to Carolyn, and went out of his way to make sure the Broerens' anniversary was well observed, including special cakes, conga lines, and a framed painting of a lilac-breasted roller ("a beautiful bird," says Carolyn).

Yet, amid all these festivities, a real highlight of the trip for Carolyn was a moment when the Broerens were able to give rather than receive. As veteran OAT travelers, they knew their adventure would involve a visit to a school, and they asked their group if they wanted to make a contribution to it. Everyone said yes.

The school in question was the Tloma Primary School, a new Grand Circle Foundation partner. Serving 659 students, ages five to 14, the school has an annual budget of just $622—less than $1 per student for the entire year. When the Broerens wrote the Foundation to inquire what was needed at the school, they were given a list of school supplies along with the prices of the various items.

The group as a whole decided that books would have the greatest impact, and they settled on $1,000 as the amount they wanted to give. "Everyone contributed," Carolyn insists. "We were the instigators, but it was something everyone wanted to do. Everyone did their share."

The Broerens' nine-year-old grandson is going into the fourth grade, so that is the grade the group chose for the books. They also wanted to be there when the books were presented. Sandra Vaughan, East Africa Operations Coordinator in Grand Circle Corporation's regional office in Arusha, Tanzania, made the arrangements—even purchasing the books and making the long drive to the school with them in the back of her car. "Sandra is wonderful!" Carolyn raves. "She is so creative and such a dynamo! How she keeps track of everything she has to do I don't know, but everything went beautifully."

One reason the donation was so memorable is that Sandra was able to make it a surprise. The school had been informed that the travelers were coming—but that was all. Even the principal and the fourth-grade teacher were in the dark about the gift—until the Broerens and their travel mates started handing out books. "They were stunned!" Carolyn recalls. "What a morning, to be there and see the expressions on their faces."

The children were seated in groups of three, and as the books were handed out, some were reluctant to share these new treasures with others at their table. "When you get a book and you've never had one before, you don't want to let go of it," explains Carolyn. At the same time, the travelers were equally eager to be the ones to carry the books in and hand them out to the children.

"Everyone just loved that part of the trip," Carolyn says. "Our 13-year-old grandson Will just wants to do everything for everybody. When we were at the Maasai village [later in the trip], he told our daughter-in-law, 'Mom, we haven't done enough. We have to go do more.' That was his attitude of wanting to help out after seeing how they live compared to how we live. He was really, really happy to be there and participate."

That spirit of giving back is one reason the Broerens keep coming back to OAT. "We got the book by Harriet and Alan Driving With No Brakes and loved reading that, about how they give back to the community and their business philosophy. And we thought if everybody did that—just listen and not be greedy—what a wonderful world it would be," Carolyn says. "They're such a shining example."

We can think of another shining example: the one that Carolyn and Lawrence Broeren have set for their grandchildren.

Featured in our August 2012 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.