Under cloudy skies struggling to let some summer sun shine forth, the 2nd Legislative District Democrats met in Spanaway on Saturday to feast on grilled salmon, talk politics, and raise some cash for organizational expenses.
Gathering at the lakeside home of their chairman, Ken Stevenson, the lovely site attracted a few former and current elected officials, along with many party stalwarts.
Foremost in holding court was former State Senator Marilyn Rasmussen, but she may have been overshadowed a bit by the six-foot-something figure of Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist.
Also in attendance was Pierce County Councilmember Tim Farrell, Amy Pivetta-Hoffman, Chair of the Frederickson-Clover Creek Community Council, and Pat Roberts-Dempsey, a long-time union representative in the Bethel School District and also the current Vice-Chair of the 2nd LD Dems.
However, perhaps the most welcomed personage was Eatonville’s Bruce Lachney, who has just returned from a two-month stint in the Philippines, where he helped launch a unique financial project endeavoring to assist Philippino youth seeking a college education in their country.
“It’s good to be back home,” he said, gesturing to the clouds. “After a couple months of tropical heat and humidity, it is so good to be back in the Pacific Northwest.”
Wearing a jacket in the cool temperatures, Bruce nevertheless warmed quickly to the request of describing his work in the Philippines.
“When it comes to having money for college, things are much different in the Third World than they are here in the United States,” said Lachney. “Here, there are so many ways of getting money – Pell grants, work study programs, scholarships – none of that is available for the average Philippino student, so a college degree is only attainable by the children of the very rich.
Lachney traveled to the Philippines in March under the auspices of a Seattle-based organization named Vittana. Formed in 2009 by a cadre of local high-tech billionaires, Vittana, which means “seed” in Hindi, does exactly that, as they invest small amounts of money in the education of promising students in much the same way that BEST offers modest scholarships to Bethel students.
In the Philippines, Vittana has established a partnership with an in-country agency named ASKI, which sets up micro-financing projects, such as proving the funding for a family to buy a goat so that they can make goat cheese and sell it at local markets.
Flexing his considerable community-building skills, Lachney, a former Eatonville School Board member, said he had to balance the demands of ASKI, Vittana, the regulations of the Philippino government and local authorities, along with the expectations and hopes of the students.
“Some days got a little tense,”Bruce said with a knowing smile. “I was really building things from scratch and had to take care of a lot of little details. But Vittana is making real good progress; things are working out pretty well.”
Bruce said the Philippines is an ideal place for Vittana to operate as the country has an excellent college and university system.
To help students get to those colleges, Lach said he “Skyped” Seattle on a daily basis, calling in at 5 pm his time – 9 am in Seattle, but a day behind in terms of the calendar.
Bruce said he worked in a town called Cabanatuan, an agricultural community about four hours north of Manila on the island of Luzon.
“Yeah, I ate a lot of rice,” Lach said.
He also said he had a few weekends free to visit the coast, and he also explored the Banaue Rice Terraces, a UNESCO Heritage site that has 2,000 year-old terraced farmlands still in production.
“I’d love to go back,” Lachney said, “but time is the issue.”
Lachney said he returned about two weeks ago to attend his daughter Sheridan’s graduation from the School of the Arts, a magnet high school in Tacoma. Sheridan is also a champion tennis player on the Eatonville High School team.
“She went to state – got bounced pretty early – but she played well,” said her father.
Bruce also left the picnic early to help coach the Eatonville Youth baseball team, which is composed mostly of Eatonville High players.
Bruces aid that he also had to leave the Philippines to tend to his cranberry crop. Lach is one of 1,100 cranberry farmers nationwide, and is a contract grower for Ocean Spray.
“We’ve had a good bloom this spring,” he said. “So, this could be a very good year – we should have a good crop, and prices are high.”
As for the seeds he planted in Cabanatuan, Lach said things are in good hands.
“Vittana has someone coming in the next two weeks to continue things. It’s a good organization,” Bruce declared.
For more information on this project, click on www.Vittana.org . Their tag line is: “Building a world where anyone can go to college,” and they conduct operations in over a dozen countries around the world, including Nicaragua, Jordan, Inner Mongolia and Rwanda.
Above photo: Marianne Scott Lincoln offers home-baked pies for sale as Bill Harrington looks on.
© 2011 The Mountain News – WA
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