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Guam Humanities Council could face end

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - A vote in Congress later this week could put an end to a beloved, independent non-profit organization that's been servicing the island community for the last 22 years.

A bill coming out of the House of Representatives Interior Subcommittee to cut the National Endowment for Humanities budget by half threatens a non-profit here at home.

The Guam Humanities Council is pleading to the island community to show their support in opposition by logging on to oppose the measure. "We're basically an independent non-profit organization that was founded by a group of community members here on Guam, including president Robert Underwood as well as several other educators. We've been providing humanities programming for the past 22 years," said Kimberlee Kihleng.

As executive director of the Guam Humanities Council, Kihleng is bracing herself as Congress is scheduled to make a vote Wednesday, or Thursday Guam time.

"With this cut, or with these proposed cuts, the council would basically be eliminated as would the other fifty-five humanities councils," she said.

The council is still healing from cuts made last year as all 56-state and territorial humanities councils operate with a shared $38 million annually - a $10 million cut from the previous year.

Doing a lot with fewer resources, Kihleng says the Guam Humanities Council operates with a minimal 3-full time staff and two-part time.

"People are very surprised to know how small our staff is given the amount of work that we do and the amount of services that we provide to the community we work very hard because we're very passionate about our work," she said.

Public relations and program coordinator Cathy Flores says the council has provided services that are surely to be missed if left unfunded. "One of the anchor program here at the Guam Humanities Council is the Mother Read Father Read and it is the only community based family literacy program on island. We pride ourself in that we go out into the community and work with underserved members and this is made possible not only through funding through the National Endowment for the Humanities but also through our long standing relationship with the Guam Community College," she said.

But it's not just literacy programs, as marketing and program coordinator Monaeka Flores adds their scope of services range from exhibits to film and discussion events to food democracy tours and interpretive hikes. "We do a rich and broad scope of projects that are accessible that reach a very diverse audience that are about education and also help us find deeper meaning, help us examine deeper meaning in our own lives and living with each other in the community," she said. "We do a huge amount of programming that's free and allows us to expose our community to things that people might not otherwise be exposed to. Not everyone's going to get the chance to the Smithsonian. Not everyone's going to get the chance to do a creative writing/photography workshop that talks about identity and place."

How can you help? By logging on to GuamHumanitiesCouncil.org. There you can follow a link to show your opposition to the measure by providing your name, email, and mailing address. This information will be forwarded to Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo who's already showed her support in opposition of the measure. The GHC also encourages you to tell your family and friends stateside to log on too. It only takes minutes. 

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