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By Katie Worth

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, April 22) – Though Yap may be a tiny island cradled by some of the most remote waves in the Pacific, its recent disaster has not gone entirely unnoticed by the rest of the world.

In fact, an educator in California who holds the picturesque Micronesian island close to his heart, has launched a campaign to get much-needed relief to Yap's typhoon-struck schools.

David Roth, deputy president of Occidental College in Los Angeles has started the Yap Relief Fund at his college, which he said already has raised $2,000 for Yap's schools.

Roth has been to Yap more than a dozen times and has worked with Micronesian educators to set up counselor training courses on Yap and several other Pacific islands. Island residents can take these training courses and gain class credit for the University of California, Los Angeles. He also has worked with educational leaders there to help build Yap's educational infrastructure and educate Yapese students about what educational options they have after high school.

Though Roth has traveled all over the Pacific, he says that Yap remains closest to his heart because of his enormous respect and admiration for his colleagues in education there.

"It is by far the place I love to be more than anywhere else. ... I've learned so much about community and how communities work together from my colleagues in Micronesia, more than colleagues I've had anywhere else in the whole world," he said during a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

Next week, Roth will be going to Kosrae, another island in the Federated States of Micronesia, to visit one of the educational programs he has helped set up there, and then he will be going on to Yap to bring supplies and some of the money raised by the Yap Relief Fund.

Another element in his goal is to get a good sense of what is going on and what aid the island will need in the short and long term so he can begin working to get that kind of help from people on the mainland.

"My goal in going there next week is to bring anything I can and also to sort of bring the message of what's going on there back here, because as you know, not only do people not know of Micronesia and of Yap, (the typhoon) hasn't registered -- it hasn't been on any of the news outlets' coverage," Roth said. "Part of my goal in working with Micronesia is to help bridge the information gap: I not only want kids there to learn about colleges all over the world, but I want colleges all over the world to learn about them."

Roth, who also is chairman of the California Student Aid Commission, which controls about $400 million in student aid for the state of California, said he already has sent out e-mails to more than 500 people, and has received many replies from those interested in helping, and even some from people just asking where Yap is.

But Roth, who has been working with the Yapese in education for over a decade, said he feels confident that Yap will recover just fine.

"I've spent a lot of time on the phone with colleagues and friends in Yap (since the typhoon) and they say in some ways people are going back to the ancient ways," he said.

"Yapese have an incredible ability to recover, and I think that's because they're drawing upon history, which allows them to be alright with natural cycles. ... You can just imagine what would happen if a typhoon hit in Los Angeles."

April 22, 2004

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