A Peak Experience

Since age 10, Brooke Vaughan has had a dream of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa.

Seventeen years later—by way of Peabody—Vaughan is turning that dream into a far-flung mission, a way to focus her passion and compassion for Africa and the greater good. 

In January, she will hike not one but three of Africa’s highest mountain peaks—in three weeks—in order to raise money for three urgent African causes: education, environment and health. 

“I’ve always felt this aching desire to give back to the world,” says Vaughan, who earned an HOD degree in 2003 and now works as a recruiter for Merrill Lynch in New York. 

“Part of me is this New York Wall Street kind of gal, but another part of me wants to leave a good footprint in the world.” 

Vaughan will join 12 other women from across the world, a group assembled by the 3 Peaks 3 Weeks Challenge (3P3W). The organization was created by Australian Chloe Chick in 2004 to support a wide array of African needs. Together they’ll climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya and Mt. Meru. 

The women have not yet met. But they already are learning to be a functioning team across oceans and time zones: they conference-call and e-mail to plan details and build camaraderie. 

They do their own fundraising and will pay their own way to Nairobi, Kenya. Vaughan has raised more than $15,000 toward a goal of at least $25,000 by January. She plans to hold a screening of the 3P3W documentary in New York City this fall. (See her fundraising site: ww.firstgiving.com/brookevaughan.) The group’s January goal is $150,000. (See www.3peaks3weeks.org for details of aims and charities.)

“HOD gave me the skills and framework for understanding the way the world works.”

Vaughan says she owes much to the HOD degree for giving shape to her values of bridging the worlds of business and nonprofit and learning to be a good corporate citizen.

“HOD gave me the skills and framework for understanding the way the world works,” says Vaughan, a New Jersey native.

Vaughan says none of the women on the team are mountaineers, herself included. All three East African peaks are accessible by trails, but she knows this will be more arduous than her hiking experiences in South America and the Adirondacks. She knows it has been done before. The initial 3P3W group, in 2007, can claim to be the first all-female team to summit all three peaks in 21 days. So far, 3P3W overall has raised more than $400,000 for African causes.

“I’m not sure I’d put myself through it unless it was for a good cause,” Vaughan says. “What we have in common is a passion for Africa, an interest in developing ourselves as individuals—and in giving something back. This is just the coolest way to raise awareness. My mother said, ‘Do you have to do the climb? Couldn’t you just write a check?’ But fundraising should be fun, something you participate in. We want to create excitement for these important causes.”