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Imelda “Emmie” Ortega-Anderson

Photo from Amy Bakari

Photo from Amy Bakari

As a young girl, Imelda “Emmie” Ortega-Anderson grew up in a nipa hut in a small town in Laoag, Philippines. At age 9, the family moved to Lanai. She was grateful for the opportunities, but the transition moving from a different country proved to be difficult. In school, she was bullied by her classmates.

“I made a promise to myself that when I grow up, I would stand up for people who could not speak for themselves because they were either afraid, intimidated or did not have the power,” Ortega-Anderson says. “I always wanted to empower people.”

These days, the Aiea resident is fulfilling her childhood dream, striving to empower others through a slew of community service activities – many that aim to give back to the Philippines.

She and husband John Leon Anderson founded Grateful Heart Foundation, which provides scholarship funds for students, donates food to mal-nourished schoolchildren and gives financial aid to an orphanage in the Philippines.

“We want (the children) to have the confidence and be serious about succeeding and improving, whether it is their family situation or their financial situation. We want them to be able to aspire to do better and reach their goals.”

Recently, Ortega-Anderson also was involved with Kokua for the Philippines to aid in typhoon relief. She and her family alone raised more than $8,000.

At her day job, Ortega-Anderson can be heard on air at KPRP AM650. The founder and CEO of Pinoy Power Media, she offers programming that discusses culture and religion, as well as offering Filipino music.

In 2009, with the help of various local business, Ortega-Anderson travelled to Manila on a medical mission following a tropical storm. Along with a group from Pinoy Power Media and partnering with local doctors, Ortega-Anderson set up a makeshift clinic and welcomed as many patients as she could, providing dental work, baby checkups and more.

“These things are luxuries in the Philippines because if you don’t have money, you can’t afford these,” Ortega-Anderson says. “Rather than just sending the money we collected, we wanted to go directly to the people.”

By the end of one day, the team had served more than 2,000 people. After that, Ortega-Anderson used the remaining medical supplies to serve five schools in her hometown. Currently, Ortega-Anderson is working on building covered sidewalks in the elementary school she attended.

“I know it is an overused term, but I wanted to be able to make a difference,” she says. “And hopefully by the example that I set, others will be inspired to also share their blessings.

“I have been really blessed to be able to come to America and to live the American Dream. I wanted to do more than just enjoy it – I wanted to share it.”