A group of off-duty US 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. Dr. Kitalong is a native of Palau, having taught at the College for many years. He also serves as Vice President at Palau Community College’s Cooperative Research Extension.

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 Dr. 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 Colonel John Yoshimori and several of his peers in the US 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 US-based nonprofit, established by former Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Palau and neighboring Micronesia, pitched in to coverer 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 ones self, to improve today for a better tomorrow,” explained 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 three thousand pounds, have been gathered by John and other Habele volunteers for public schools across Palau and Micronesia.

“This is a great, collaborative project,” explained Neil Mellen, founder of the US nonprofit Habele. 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.”


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