A South Carolina based nonprofit has sent a thousand English language dictionaries to the picturesque island of Pohnpei. It’s one of four states in the Central Pacific Ocean that make up the string of islands called the Federated States of Micronesia. The dictionaries include an abbreviated atlas, something local island students can use to learn more about distant North American geography.
This unique donation is enough to provide every eighth grade student across Pohnpei State with something previously unheard of—a dictionary of their very own.
More than 40 boxes of books will soon arrive in the Pohnpeian city of Kolonia. They will be distributed to the 900 eighth-grade students who are enrolled in the roughly 30 public schools across Pohnpei and its outer islands. Dictionaries are also en route to eighth grade students at the Pohnpei SDA School, Calvary Christian Academy, and the Pohnpei Catholic School, as well as readers at the downtown public library.
The donation is particularly meaningful as Pohnpei, like all the isolated islands in the Central Pacific, struggles with economic and educational challenges. Among those lucky enough to enroll in the nation’s two-year community college system, only a tiny fraction will earn a degree, according to recent data from the U.S. government. Per-capita income remains under $3,000 per year and many families still rely on subsistence fishing and farming.
The donation was organized by Columbia based “Habele,” a group of former Peace Corps volunteers who served as teachers in Micronesia. They partnered with Ray and Barbara Dalio of Connecticut. Their Dalio Family Foundation provided the vision and support to design and implement the project.
Larry Raigetal, a Habele volunteer from nearby Yap State, helped piece together the effort. “This donation is exactly what local educators and librarians told us they needed. It’s a huge opportunity, particularly those students struggling with generational poverty.”
Raigetal is also the founder of “Waa’gey” a nonprofit in Yap that works to preserve traditional skills, and has partnered with Habele on projects in that state. He spent several weeks in Pohnpei this winter working to develop plans for the donation of the dictionaries.
South Carolina-based charity Habele has been working in Micronesia since 2006. In addition to coordinating donations of text, reference and reading books, the group awards scholarships and provides support to community-based after school programs. These include traditional dugout canoe carving (through the Waa’gey organization) and Micronesia’s first ever-high school robotics team exhibition. Late last year, Habele created a computer lab for Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School and provided cases of donated books to the Pohnpei Public Library. (Habele)