Chenchule’: Mainland Chamorros supporting each other during the pandemic

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Josh Borja, the president of the Guam Club, said their mission is to help Chamorro families who are in need during this time of uncertainty.

According to Guampedia, Chenchule’ refers to that intricate system of social reciprocity at the heart of ancient and contemporary CHamoru society.

It is this unique and innate tradition that is now helping mainland Chamorros cope with the continuing coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

The Guam Club, a California-based Chamorro organization, has launched a program to help Chamorros in the mainland adversely affected by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Its “Chenchule” program is primarily a food drive started this month in partnership with Chamorro-owned restaurants in the San Diego area.

Josh Borja, the president of the Guam Club, said food boxes were provided to each restaurant for regular patrons and first-time customers to drop off their donations or to donate online at www.GuamClub.org while ordering their food from San Diego-based restaurants.

“We want to make sure there are no Chamorros in the states that are in need of food during these uncertain times,” Borja said in an interview with PNC.

“We have created a Chenchule’ program here in San Diego. We have been doing a food drive for 20 Chamorro families every month. I wanted to see if this could be duplicated throughout the U.S. but I also need to reach out to all the Guam Liberation city leaders,” Borja added.

Home away from home

The Guam Club, whose longer and more formal name is Sons and Daughters of Guam Club Inc., is a home away from home and an organization dedicated to preserving the Chamorro culture.

It has been a home for Chamorros in the mainland since 1953 and it organizes many functions and programs such as fiestas, novenas and the Liberation Queen Campaign, just to name a few.

From elders to kids, many people love to go to the Guam Club for events and it has a 2.7-acre piece of property that literally belongs to the members.

“We would have cultural presentations throughout the week and Uncle Frank Rabon would hold workshops with all the Guma’s. It’s pretty amazing to see our culture being taught by living legends. Thank you GVB,” Borja said.

He added: “We also plan to launch more cultural programs such as language, dance and art/crafts. We have a Chamorro week every March right before the Chamorro Cultural Festival.”

At many of these functions, one can hear stories about Chamorro culture and see families meeting for the first time.

“It’s great to observe and humbling to be a part of it,” Borja said.

The organization also holds the annual CHE’LU Chamorro cultural festival. However, this event was canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because it is held on a college campus, we left it up to the college to make the final call. CHE’LU also holds a Chamorro Appreciate Day towards the end of every year,” Borja said.

A son of Guam

Borja was raised in the beautiful village of Santa Rita. He joined the US Navy in 1997 after graduating high school to serve his country. He was stationed in San Diego in 1999 and has always been active in the Chamorro community.

From fiestas to barbecues, Josh is always happy to help in any way he can to promote and nurture the Chamorro culture.

He received a BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in High Tech Management from California State University San Marcos in 2006, while being an entrepreneur.

He also started the GuamLiberation.com Free Picnic that was held at Admiral Baker for 10 years before moving it to the Guam Club in 2015. Josh is very active in the Chamorro community and part of many organizations in San Diego such as PIFA, House of Chamorros and IRENSIA to name a few. He also serves as a board director for CHE’LU which organizes the largest Chamorro Cultural Festival in the U.S. He is currently the President of the Sons & Daughters of Guam Club, Inc. and GuamLiberation.com.

So does he still keep in touch with news, friends, and family back home in Guam?

“I do keep in touch with my family and friends. Thanks to WhatsApp. It’s free and I believe every family has a chat these days. I remember purchasing phone cards to call home. Things have changed and are more convenient thanks to technology. I miss my family, friends and of course the beautiful white beaches,” Borja said.

To the younger generation, Josh advises that you either have to get your education or work hard. He said smart people get paid and people who work hard earn respect.

“If you can do both, this is to your advantage. Don’t forget to be happy and live. If you find your passion in life, you will never work a day in your life,” Borja stressed.

Chenchule’

Quoting GuamPedia, Borja said Chenchule’ is a support system of exchange in which families express their care and concern for each other, as well as a sense of obligation to each other while working together to help each family meet its needs.

Borja said Chenchule’ has been a practice since ancient times and their current project’s mission is to help Chamorro families who are in need during this time of uncertainty.

“The Chenchule’ program is to help families in need of food and/or clothing,” Borja said.

He said the need and donations are not limited to food but food is the first and foremost priority so that Chamorro families who cannot afford to buy food do not go hungry.

Borja said this campaign will also promote Chamorro businesses in the San Diego area and will help the community provide food assistance to Chamorro families. Guam Club representatives will pick up the food boxes every two weeks or when notified by the restaurants.

For the long-term, Borja said his goal is to first grow the Chamorro culture in San Diego through respect, unity and hospitality.

But depending on the community response, Borja would also like to expand all over the nation. “I’m hoping to create a framework to duplicate the Guam Club in other cities. I’m currently working with Las Vegas,” Borja said.

He added: “Hopefully, this will spread organically nationwide.

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