Atwater teen sends educational help sailing to Philippines

ATWATER -- In three freight containers destined for a poor town in the Philippines, Racquel Enad enclosed 837 boxes of books, 225 computers and 95 printers.

She's 19 years old, on the pre-med track at Stanford University and has been doing this for four years. This is her second package, and if she has her way, there'll be many more deliveries.

"We are all world citizens," she said Tuesday after sealing the containers for their six-week journey across the Pacific Ocean to Sangat, a town of 10,000 on the island of Cebu. "I feel like there's such a big need with global poverty. As Americans, we should give back."

She immediately points to all the teachers, Rotarians and elected officials who helped her gather the supplies for the educational aid. "It's very much a community effort," she said.

The truth remains: she's the driving force behind the Cebu Project, a humanitarian effort that began during her sophomore year at Golden Valley High School and has since grown into a nonprofit organization called the Bless the Mind Foundation.

Enad was shaken to action in 1997 when she went to the Philippines during a family vacation and saw the poverty in the town where her father was raised. He had left in 1976 for the opportunity that existed in the United States.

At the time of her visit, the high school library had six working computers. The other six were broken. There were two bookshelves for about 1,200 students. "You realize how much you take for granted," she said. "It gave me a new perspective."

Enad began writing letters and traveling from business to business with a slideshow presentation of conditions in the town. She collected about 250 boxes of textbooks and computers, filling about half of a 16-square-foot shipping container. "It was one person stirring one community," she said. "It became a lot bigger."

Just after the first package landed in the Philippines, she began collecting supplies for the next load.

Jon Rodacy, the vice president of Dole Packaged Foods in Atwater, read reports of her efforts and decided to get the company involved by letting her store the books and computers at their plant. Dole also helped with the shipping logistics.

"We happened to have a large presence in this end and on the other end," he explained. "We figured maybe there was something we could do help."

Last year, Enad secured a Rotary grant to help build a two-story building that would serve as a classroom and computer lab for the high school. Filipino engineers donated their time to design the plans, and Enad hopes to see it built by next year.

She decided to send books and computers because they would influence generation after generation.

"(The supplies) will help them make better decisions," she explained. "It will help them become more cultured."

And they'll no longer be taken for granted.

Reporter Scott Jason

can be reached at (209) 385-2453

or sjason@mercedsun-star.com.