Pan Pacific group raising cash
By Caryn Kunz
Advertiser Staff Writer
After 82 years of helping women and children in the Pacific, the Pan Pacific and Southeast Asia Women's Association will hold its first fundraiser next month.
The March 26 event, called Golf for a Child, will help raise money to build a school in rural Cambodia and provide continued support for local organizations such as the Susannah Wesley Community Center.
Founded in Honolulu, the association held its first conference in 1928 with delegates from 11 Pacific and Asian nations. Today, the organization includes 22 chapters dedicated to improving the lives of women and children from Sāmoa to Singapore.
"The basis of the club is still women helping women and children. I know today there are so many organizations that do this, but in 1928 there weren't," said the association's Hawai'i president, Mary Tori Keegan. "This was the first women's organization in the islands."
Keegan said that throughout the history of the group in Hawai'i, money for any cause the group supported came directly from member donations.
"The original members were all very wealthy women who were also very educated. Whenever they wanted to help a cause, they just wrote a check," Keegan said. "They never had to bother with fundraisers. Nowadays, we live in different times. This is the first big fundraiser that we're trying."
Golf for a Child Chairwoman Asipau Pamela Plouffe says the tournament has the potential to expand the association's outreach efforts as it becomes established.
"There is a need for education, not only in Cambodia but throughout the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, and we can be a vehicle for that good cause," she said. "It's something that we can look forward to annually. We also want to expand to other local causes as we establish ourselves and more funds come in."
The association's Hawai'i chapter supports Susannah Wesley Community Center's C-BASE high school diploma program, an alternative education program for youth ages 16 to 23.
"They've practically adopted those kids," said Ronald Higashi, the center's executive director. "They've always been at the graduations that we have here at the center. They even purchase the gowns."
Higashi said that in addition to C-BASE, the Hawai'i chapter also helps fund smaller projects throughout the year and often provides youths with extra necessities.
"I can't say enough about them," he said. "They're always there when we need them."
In May, the association will hold its international conference in Bali, Indonesia. After the conference, Keegan, Plouffe and association delegates from Hawai'i will travel to Cambodia to dedicate their school.
"We've gotten so many new members in the last several years, and they are terrific members that are willing to move in a little bit different direction," Keegan said. "It's a direction that we need now, today. I'm excited about it."