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HPU takes community service international

by Kalamalama staff

HPU is becoming better known every day for its emphasis on education that develops and international outlook. It enrolls students from more than 118 countries. It regularly presents international subjects, ideas, perspectives, and issues in the classroom as well outside it. Witness the recurring seminars on global citizenship, (the next one is Oct. 30 at the Hawai‘i Loa campus) and the biannual Intercultural Day festivals (the next one is Oct. 29, downtown).
HPU professors carry out research, and present its results, all over the globe. Recently Dr. James Primm, associate professor of international studies, added another dimension to the University’s international commitment. Primm visited Cambodia as part of the National Endowment to the Humanities faculty development grant to carry out research on land mine eradication and the evolution of human rights.

One reason Primm chose Cambodia for his research was because he and his wife, Julie, adopted their daughter, Samay, from Cambodia in 1997. “We wanted to return to Cambodia and visit the orphanage to see how they were doing,” Primm said. “It was a moving emotional experience. The children remind me so much of our daughter that I was reminded how lucky we were to get her. The children seemed to be doing fine, and there were some new building and facilities for the kids.”


However, he added, since 2002 there have been no adoptions from Cambodia to the United States due to allegations of child trafficking. What this means, Primm explained, is that there are many children in Cambodia who were slated to be adopted, but who are stuck in Cambodia. Their adoptive parents are frustrated, and the children are relegated to the unfortunate status of permanent orphans.

Primm visited one of the orphanages/schools which was created to take care of these children, so that they would not end up on the streets where they could easily become involved drugs and prostitution or worse. Called the Palm Tree School, it had about 50 children living there.

“ I fell in love with these kids immediately,” Primm said. “Their warmth, openness, and innocence just melted my heart,” and “I wanted to figure out a way I could help them. Teaching and research can be ‘in your head’ experiences. This was a ‘hands-on’ opportunity where I could actually see that a little direct help could have a life-change effect.”

Returning to Hawai‘i, Primm persuaded Mid Pacific Institute to donate 10 computers to the Palm Tree School. He was able to return to Cambodia in August, thanks to another HPU faculty development grant, to personally deliver four of these computers to the school.

“ You should have seen these 50 children gathering around the computers and fighting to get on them to learn and to play. It was and incredibly rewarding experience,” said Primm.

Currently Primm is trying to figure out ways to get the rest of the computers to the school, and he also is in the process of creating his own nonprofit organization so that he can solicit funds to help the school with books, food clothing, etc. One of his long-range goals is to create scholarships to bring some kids to Hawai‘i to study at Mid-Pacific and at HPU.

“ I am just doing this on my own,” Primm said. “I am going slow and feeling my way through. I have talked to the principal at Mid-Pacific and with President Wright, and they have been very receptive to my efforts. I see this as a way of ‘internationalizing’ community service, which is one of the responsibilities we have as professors at this university. But in fact it is really a labor of love.”

Anyone interested in learning more about what Primm is doing, or who wants to join him in helping the children at the Palm Tree School should e-mail him at or call 544- 1470. "Your efforts will change lives,” Primm said: “yours and theirs. And it will demonstrate that HPU ‘walks the walk and talks the talk’ in its commitment to internationalism.”



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