Thursday, June 02, 2011

Chamorro Youth Day

While I was in San Diego attending graduate school I worked with alot of the Chamorro community out there, in particular the non-profit group CHELU Inc. CHELU stands for Chamorro Hands in Education Links Unity and it was created to support the Chamorro people and the maintenance of their health, their language and their heritage. I served briefly as a board member to CHELU, during which time I helped write for them a $100,000 ANA or Administration of Native Americans Grant, to study the state of the
Chamorro language in San Diego county, which hosts the largest population of Chamorros anywhere outside of the Marianas. The grant was called Tungo' i Estao i Fino'-ta, and despite the group being rejected for the same grant the year earlier, with my help we received it and the study was conducted.

When I helped organize three Famoksaiyan conferences in San Diego and the Bay Area, many Guam clubs or Chamorro groups were not supportive and sometimes openly hostile of what we were doing. The leadership of CHELU, recognizing that we were  young, intelligent, creative students, many of which wanted to re-connect back home or just find a way to improve things that we saw as being wrong, found many ways to help us out. During the first Famoksaiyan conference held in San Diego in 2006, the leadership of the Guam club where we were holding the conference refused to even come in and see the conference which was attended by more than 70 people. Members of CHELU did attend and told those of us who had gathered there the importance of what we were doing.

For our 3rd conference Guma'famoksiyan held in 2008 in San Diego, we had trouble finding a fiscal sponsor so we could accept donations, and CHELU stepped out. We unfortunately did not receive many donations, but it was really the support that mattered. As it was two years earlier, the leadership of the main Guam club was against the conference we were organizing in San Diego despite our wanting to use their clubhouse for our activities and thus help bring more youth into their community. CHELU lobbied on our behalf that we should be able to use the clubhouse free of charge since we were doing a service to the community. We lost that battle due to the petty politics that sometimes plagues Guam clubs in the states, but the support from CHELU was much appreciated.

When I moved back to Guam in 2008 to finish my dissertation and later start working at UOG, I really couldn't help much with CHELUs activities, which included cultural festivals and casino trips to raise money. I still receive regular emails from my Auntie Janice who has long been the backbone and spiritual core of the group and I've been so impressed with what they've done. Biba CHELU!

I got one such email this morning, about an event taking place this week called "Chamorro Youth Day" or "Diha Para i Chamorro na Manhoben" on June 4th. The flyer is posted below for those who want to know more:

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