Imagine a school with no library. No picture books, novels or magazines to read.
Bainbridge resident Kimrick Soltanzadeh couldn’t.
But she saw just that while volunteering at the Don Herminio Maravilla Elementary School in the Philippines back in 2010.
“It was sad,” she said of the lack of library. “I thought it was just disappointing.”
After Soltanzadeh began re-connecting with her family in the Philippines that year, she decided to fund and build sidewalks for the children attending the very school her grandfather founded. She didn’t want to see kids walking in the mud during the rainy season, tracking it into classrooms.
Her desire to help didn’t stop there. She wanted to build a library for the children, too.
With the help of many, she’s raised cash and collected book donations to send to the rural village outside of the island’s capital, Bacolod City.
Since last year, she’s gathered 12,000 books. Now, she’s heading off to the Philippines to build a library.
On June 20, she and her children will fly to the village to watch the school children open the books for the very first time. She shipped 4,000 books back in mid-March so the package would arrive in June, just in time for her arrival. Soltanzadeh plans to help the principal set up the room that will be the school’s dedicated library while there.
“I’m still getting more books all the time,” she said. “I thought, ‘Gosh, why not get more books?’ They don’t have new textbooks, either. They share the books they do have.”
To prepare herself, she’s taking a class through the Peace Corps to learn how to set up a library overseas. She’s also spent time with local librarians to find out how to best organize it.
“That’s kind of how I gathered my resources,” she said. “This is very grassroots.”
The opportunity to take her children on a philanthropic trip of a lifetime came through Wells Fargo, where she works.
Recently, she was awarded a Volunteer Leave Award from the company to receive her full pay while she is away volunteering.
“What an amazing tribute to Kimrick’s family heritage that will make a remarkable difference in the lives of the children and members of this community,” said Patrick Yalung, Wells Fargo Washington region president. “The Volunteer Leave Program is one way for Wells Fargo to honor that commitment and empower our team member volunteers to make a lasting impact on causes that are important to them. We look forward to seeing how the library looks when it is completed. It will be life-changing for this community.”
Initially, Soltanzadeh wanted to gather just a thousand books. When it took her some time to get a few hundred, she thought her goal might not be met.
Then, by word-of-mouth, bags of books seem to appear in front of her.
Word had gotten out.
“I couldn’t believe the people — always donating,” she said. “It’s just been nice.”
Her children also helped by hosting book drives.
For her, it was important to make sure whatever project she dedicated her time to would make a difference. She wanted her children, Ethan and Isabelle, to see that, too.
Soltanzadeh is happy the gift of a library will help children right away.
“Seeing it be a total benefit to them, I guess that’s how I would know it’s a success.”
The lack of a library at the school boggled her mind as a parent, especially since her own daughter’s favorite activity is checking out school library books.
Learning from a book is a way to open up children’s minds to endless educational possibilities, Soltanzadeh said. In the Philippines, it’s especially important, she added.
“Education is a step to getting people out of poverty, especially girls,” she said. “That’s the hope — that this project will give them hope.”
Lara Underhill, Wells Fargo spokeswoman, believes it absolutely will.
“She’s really going to leave a legacy for her family. It’s important to us to support team members in their volunteering,” she said. “Her story is inspiring; I can’t wait to share it far and wide.”
Annually, the award goes to 20 to 35 of the top volunteers throughout Wells Fargo.
Want to help?
Drop off books at Wells Fargo at 1180 Hildebrand Lane NE through June 19.