Typhoon Haiyan devastated many schools and libraries in the Philippines, and Rotary Club of Kapolei Sunset’s services committee chairman Jim Handsel has done great work to send books to the country.
But the initiative started long before the arrival of Typhoon Haiyan.
“It just happened to be right time, right place,” he says. “It just happens that we had the mechanism in place when the typhoon hit.”
Handsel is speaking of the club’s Common Core book collection for the Philippines, a country he visits regularly.
“I have a couple of friends who have retired in the Philippines, and I’ve visited them and made a number of friends in the process,” he says.
In September 2012, he had a chance meeting with Sol Matugas, governor of Surigao del Norte, and found she had risen not as a politician but through the department of education. She told Handsel that her desire as governor was to help underprivileged kids in the outlying provinces by building libraries and schools to help educate children so they can break out of poverty.
“I told her I was part of the Rotary Club and asked if there was anything we could do,” he explains. “She said, ‘If you could get us books, that would be great.’”
Handsel spoke to his Rotary club about the need in the Philippines, and members agreed almost unanimously to lending a helping hand.
He began putting the pieces together, first finding sources for books, then securing shipment and partnering with a Rotary club in the Philippines.
As he started his quest for books, Handsel became aware of the Common Core program and decided to put these books to good use.
The first shipment in September 2013 totaled between 800 and 900 books, and the second shipment nearly 7,000, with more and more books rolling in.
The Rotary club now has outgrown its storage and is looking for other methods of shipping.
“We’re scrambling to keep up at this point,” Handsel adds. “The typhoon hit and wiped out a bunch of schools and libraries. We started thinking, ‘What happens if we start to franchise this out to other Rotary clubs on the Mainland?’ Is Rotary then in a position to completely restock schools and libraries devastated by the typhoon?
“That’s what we’re looking at doing at this point.”
Handsel first got involved with Rotary Club of Kapolei Sunset back in November 2009 after friends Evans Crary Jr. and Sara Crary invited him to a meeting.
“It was a fairly young club at the time, probably less than two years old,” he explains. “I immediately felt like it was a good group of people. Everyone was smart and on top of things.”