HONOLULU, Hawaii—A group of off-duty U.S. Army soldiers in Hawaii have teamed up with professors and students at two American universities to provide targeted donations of textbooks for Dr. Kris Kitalong’s students at Palau Community College in the Republic of Palau. Professors and students at Brigham Young University Hawaii and Northern Arizona University were eager to help. Dr. Naomi Lee, assistant professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Northern Arizona University recruited students and research assistants to locate and pack texts that Kitalong and his students needed. Kikiana Hurwitz, university laboratory manager and instructor in biochemistry and biology at BYU Hawaii, also organized volunteers among her students to find and box books.
Coordination for the donation came from Lt Col. John Yoshimori and several of his peers in the U.S. Army. Their unit, Task Force Oceania, was established to provide continuous support in the Pacific Island countries located in Oceania, assist U.S. embassies as needed, and reinforce lasting and meaningful relationships in the region. The soldiers volunteered their time after work hours to help pull the book donation together.
A U.S.-based nonprofit, Habele, which was established by former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Palau and neighboring Micronesia, pitched in to cover the costs of postage, with funds donated by former Peace Corps volunteers and other individual Americans.
“Knowledge is power! We must provide the next generation opportunities to improve oneself, to improve today for a better tomorrow,” said John Yoshimori of Aiea. “It is my kuliana (responsibility) to ensure that the world I was born in is a better place for not just my children, but the children of the world. We all have to malama pono (take care) of each other if we are to achieve this vision.”
Over the last six months more than a hundred boxes of books, totaling over 3,000 lbs, have been gathered by Yoshimori and other Habele volunteers for public schools across Palau and Micronesia.
“This is a great, collaborative project,” said Habele founder Neil Mellen. “Educators in Palau, University professors, staff and students in Arizona and Hawaii, and individual volunteers throughout working to pair resources with specific locally stated needs. It is exciting to see how the long standing and historic partnership between the US and Palau works on such a personal, individual level.” (PR)