Books headed to students in Kosrae, Island of the Sleeping Lady

A group of off-duty US Army soldiers in Hawaii have teamed up with a public school on Oahu, students in the school’s Junior Naval ROTC unit, and a nonprofit founded by former Peace Corps Volunteers to send books to a school-based library in Kosrae.

Diverse in culture and language, the far-flung picturesque islands of Micronesia are strategically situated. The Federated States of Micronesia are the geopolitical crossroads of the Pacific. The islands’ dramatic role in centuries of global politics obscures persistent challenges of isolation, dispersion, and limited resources.

Once part of a US administered Trust Territory, today Micronesia’s far-reaching alliance with the US is cemented through a Compact of Free Association, or COFA, that defines defense and development ties between the nations.

The eastern most state of the Federated States of Micronesia, Kosrae, is home to fewer than seven thousand islanders, living on forty square miles of land, with an average household income of just $15,000. The isolated island is more than three hundred miles from neighboring Pohnpei, home to the national capital. From offshore, the distinctive shape of the Kosrae, densely covered with vegetation atop steep mountains, resembles the female form, earning the nickname “the sleeping lady.”

Schools across Micronesia need books for their school-based libraries, which serve both students and members of the community at large. Staff at James Campbell High School and a group of Army Reservists resolved to help, enlisting the support of students at the high school’s Navy JROTC detachment.

“We were thrilled to collaborate with Campbell High School and Habele to get used library books to deserving people in the COFA States,” explained John Yoshimori of Aiea. “In my opinion we are providing reading opportunities to students in the American Affiliated Pacific and hopefully showing the general public that soldiers are human beings capable of planning and executing humanitarian activities also as well as combat operations!”

Over the last six months more than seventy boxes of books, totaling over two thousand pounds, have been gathered by these and other Habele volunteers for public schools across Micronesia. The nonprofit receives requests from Micronesian schools in Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae, then matches them with offers from American schools and individuals looking to donate.

“Child development is the foundation for community and economic development” explained Neil Mellen of Habele, a US nonprofit established by former Peace Corps Volunteers that works with students across Micronesia. “All facets of human capital are formed by abilities developed early in life and we always have more book requests from our partner schools than we can meet.”

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