Dayna ChikamotoBy Christina O’Connor
As a young girl, Dayna Chikamoto grew up hearing about her father’s travels to the Marshall Islands. Her father, an attorney, often would visit the atoll chain for business and would return home to tell Chikamoto about life there – and about the lack of educational resources for students her age.
“That is what really struck me – he would tell me about the condition of the schools,” Chikamoto recalls. “The schools are lacking in books and other educational materials for the students.
“I realized that it would be very difficult for students there to learn with no textbooks, or having to share books, or not being able to take books home with them, and how difficult it must be for the teachers as well,” she says.
In an effort to help fellow students, Chikamoto started collecting textbooks for donation to the Marshall Islands when she was just 14 and a student at Iolani School.
Now 22 and a recent graduate of Occidental College in California, Chikamoto estimates that she has gifted about 50 tons of books over the years. She even managed to keep the project going throughout her time in school on the Mainland. Now that she’s returned to Hawaii, she hopes that she can increase the amount of donations.
Chikamoto drives around the island collecting books from various public and private schools. When she’s gathered enough to make a shipment, she calls upon Royal Hawaiian Movers and Matson – both of which offer their services for free to help the cause – to transport the donations. Royal Hawaiian Movers even helps her pack and load the books. Chikamoto is pictured above with Royal Hawaiian Movers president and general manager Edward Wong as he helps prepare a recent shipment.
“That is what makes me the most happy and the most excited – to see the huge amount of books and just knowing that all of those books are going to children who will really appreciate them and be able to use them,” she says.
Chikamoto’s latest contribution – which she sent off a couple of weeks ago – is going to Delap Elementary School on Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, where she recently visited. She toured the school and got a chance to see where this batch of donations will go. Although it’s one of the largest schools in the area, it doesn’t have a library. The principal says they’re hoping to use the books to create mini libraries within each of the classrooms. In the future, Chikamoto also plans to look into the possibility of helping Delap establish a larger, schoolwide library.
“I just think that it’s important for every child to be able to receive an education,” Chikamoto says. “I hope that through this project, the students I am trying to help will be able to create a better future for themselves.”
Schools that have textbooks to donate can email Chikamoto at firstname.lastname@example.org.