Al Vaughn of World Vision: “Find joy and importance in the little things in life”

Find joy and importance in the little things in life. Even the scenery where you run and train is important. We had a beautiful view of a river in an area that is typically very dry, and it made every run worth it. As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important […]

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Find joy and importance in the little things in life. Even the scenery where you run and train is important. We had a beautiful view of a river in an area that is typically very dry, and it made every run worth it.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Al Vaughn, a member of Team World Vision.

Bakersfield native Al Vaughn is a retired oil field electrician, an avid runner, and a member of Team World Vision, which raises money to provide access to clean water for children around the world. Al has been married to his wife, Joyce, for 53 years. Al is training for the Los Angeles Half Marathon in 2022 with Team World Vision.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started running and raising money for Team World Vision in 2015 through my church, Olive Knolls in Bakersfield, CA. I had not tried running since high school but was excited about the opportunity to join the team and raise money for World Vision’s WASH program (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) to bring clean water around the world.

To prepare for the 2016 Los Angeles half marathon, we trained every Saturday and had a lot of camaraderie working toward the goal together. Once I trained hard and achieved that goal, I knew I could stick with the rest of the team, even at my age. I then went on to complete the half marathon in 2017, 2018, and 2020.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

At age 73, I ran the Los Angeles Half Marathon on March 8, 2020. Two weeks later, I contracted COVID-19 and was in the hospital for three months, partially in an induced coma. I lost forty pounds of muscle and had to learn to walk again. I credit my miracle recovery to my late-in-life hobby of running. It has given me the mental and physical fortitude to survive, along with the support of my race team at World Vision.

I was just the 10th confirmed case of COVID-19 in Kern County, California, along with my wife of 53 years, Joyce. After 55 days apart, we reunited in person after weeks of FaceTime calls. We had an outpouring of support during my recovery. The support from my wife, family, and Team World Vision got me through the tough days.

Team World Vision placed more than 100 hearts on our front lawn from supporters around the world. It was really a blessing to see all the people that were praying for us and uplifting our family.

During my welcome home parade, I made the commitment to race the half marathon again. I just started training for the 2022 LA Half Marathon this fall. It won’t be easy as I battle AFIB and loss of strength from my COVID symptoms, but I’m ready to defend my age-group title and enjoy running again.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

There are a lot of things to learn as a new runner, especially at my age, on how to keep your body energized and ready to run again. I had to remember to bring water with me on my runs to stay hydrated in the hot California sun! My motto with mistakes has always been that life happens and you will make mistakes, but you live with it and learn from it.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization that is dedicated to working with children, families, and communities around the world. The organization truly helps people reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. They are the largest provider of clean water in the world with water projects like wells, water kiosks, latrines and handwashing stations, and rain catchments.

World Vision’s water projects support other areas of development, including health, education, food, and economic development. This approach tackles the root causes of poverty, enabling children and families in developing countries the chance to live a fulfilling life.

Team World Vision runs for clean water and fullness of life. But they also offer prayer and support as they provided me during my recovery.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Through the money we raise for Team World Vision, children around the world are ensured clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. More than 800 children under age five die every day from diarrhea caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and unsafe hygiene. With the ongoing pandemic, clean water is more important than ever for handwashing and disinfection to prevent the spread of diseases like COVID-19.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. Get involved by finding a Team World Vision group to run within your local community and help raise money for the WASH program to bring clean water around the world. The community is incredible and very encouraging.
  2. Purchase gifts from the World Vision Gift Catalog this holiday season. The gifts create lasting change in communities around the world. For a fifty-dollar donation, you can provide clean water or a water purifier to a person in need.
  3. Sign up to be chosen by a child to sponsor through World Vision’s Chosen program. Each month, you support a child and their community. For every child you help, four more children benefit, too.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

When you are a leader, you bring a specific level of expertise to your craft. A leader is someone like my coach, Jackie Holmes. She brings everyone together in our group. As I start running again, Jackie reminds me to continue taking that next step toward another finish line.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. When you start something new, especially running, you must keep pushing yourself through the challenges to reach your reward. When you haven’t run before, your muscles are going to hurt! You are going to be using new muscles, but you have to keep going and working hard.

2. The bond that you will have with a team is really something special that you share together. I did not expect so much from my team when I first joined. It has been truly an amazing experience from training to the support I received while battling COVID-19. I encourage everyone to join a team and build a community.

3. Every mile you run with Team World Vision will be moving you toward the goal of bringing clean water to villages in Africa and around the world. Everyone is praying for you to take that next step and meet your goal.

4. Find joy and importance in the little things in life. Even the scenery where you run and train is important. We had a beautiful view of a river in an area that is typically very dry, and it made every run worth it.

5. When you’re fighting through a sickness like COVID-19, you have to stay positive and lean on the community you have around you to help you make it through. Even when I was relearning how to walk, I was determined to run another half marathon with Team World Vision. I know that if I remain resilient, I will be able to complete this next run.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Supporting World Vision is one of the biggest accomplishments of my running career. Being able to run another race, and raise money for a good cause, is as special to me as it is to the families they serve. I encourage runners and supporters to join me this year on Team World Vision!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You have a story to tell.” When I was just coming out of my coma, I can remember the conversation that I had with God. I said I am ready to meet you Lord if the time is here, but if it isn’t, I need to know. The answer was you’re going to live, and you have a story to tell.

COVID-19 gave me a second chance and the spirit and drive to run. I am using my health now to spread the gift of life to the families World Vision serves by running to raise money and awareness for this important cause.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

The person I would most like to have lunch with again would be our son, AJ, who passed away from cancer in December 2013. He was a real sweetheart and battled for three years when he was originally told he would only have three months. He was filled with God and incredibly involved in the community.

I would also like to talk with someone in California who has dealt with the long-lasting impacts of COVID-19 to share our stories and learn how they are making a better life for themselves post-COVID.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your great work.

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