By Lara Underhill
Northwest Asian Weekly
After a 2010 trip to the Philippines to reconnect with her family roots, Kimrick Soltanzadeh knew she wanted to do more for the rural community where her family was from.
“I hadn’t been to the Philippines for about 10 years before that trip and during that time I became very involved with the local community in Bainbridge and realized the value of volunteering and giving back. I knew I wanted to do something for the community where my family is from,” Kimrick said.
Soltanzadeh has been awarded a Volunteer Leave Award from Wells Fargo, and will receive her full pay while volunteering at The Herminio Maravilla Elementary School in the Philippines. While that is amazing in itself, the project that got her the award will really warm your heart.
During that 2010 trip to the Philippines she began volunteering with the elementary school in a rural village outside Bacolod City that was named after her grandfather, Herminio Maravilla. Her grandfather owned a farm in this village and started the school to ensure that the children of the laborers that worked on his farm were able to go to school while their parents worked.
The mission of The Herminio Maravilla Elementary School is to improve the lives of children and families in the Philippines by helping to provide a place to learn, support teachers in promoting literacy and the love of books in schools and communities.
She helped the school build and pay for sidewalks near the classrooms so the kids did not have to walk on the muddy ground during the rainy season. During her last visit to the school in 2013, Kimrick started a library for the school by collecting donated reading books and cash to ship the books from Seattle to Bacolod City and to build book shelves to house the books.
“I got the idea from my daughter because she loves coming home from school when it is library day. The kids at Herminio Maravilla school don’t get that experience and I knew that building a library was something I could do for the community,” Kimrick said.
Kimrick has raised cash and book donations from her friends, family, school and church community as well as through a crowd-funding website she started. She has also partnered with the local Filipino-American Society on Bainbridge Island to collect books for the library and funds for shipping costs.
Kimrick has collected approximately 6,000 reading books and $1,000 in cash donations to help ship the books from Seattle to Manila to Bacolod. She shipped 4,000 books in mid-March, so that the books would arrive in Bacolod by mid-June. Her plan is to be in the Philippines around June 23rd to pick up the books from the port and deliver them to the school. Kimrick will convert a school room into a library with shelves, tables and chairs and she will help the principal set up a library book system. She is currently taking an online training course through the Peace Corps on how to start a sustainable library in a foreign country.
“I am so excited and grateful on so many levels,” Kimrick said. “I am happy that I have the ability to make an immediate impact of children’s lives and hope that in some way, I can make a difference through books and education. I am grateful that I work for a company that recognizes my goals outside of work and supports me. It also means so much to me that I live in a community that has donated thousands of books and helped me pay for the shipping costs to get the books around the world and to a very small province in South East Asia. I am also hoping that this is just a start and that one day, books will be accessible to all children, families and teachers because I believe education is the ticket out of poverty.”
Kimrick is one of 14 Wells Fargo team members across the country to receive a Volunteer Leave award so far in 2015. The program was established in 1976 and is open to team members who have been with the company for five years among other criteria. Winners are chosen annually based on their personal commitment to the organization, their proposed project, and the potential impact that their project goals will have on addressing a specific social issue. (end)
Lara Underhill can be reached at email@example.com.
Thank you for having this advocacy Ms. Lara. Knowing that most public school libraries in the Philippines are under-funded/not funded, your initiative is indeed very noble.