It’s been a long time and so much has happened since our last newsletter back in March 2020! Like everyone on the planet, we have done our best to navigate through the pandemic and hope each one of you are doing the best you can through these most challenging of times. I would like to share a few of Hoʻokuaʻāinaʻs highlights during this period as well as discuss what I believe to be the mindset of health and well-being from the perspective of our kūpuna to encourage us all.
ASA- Ahupua Systems Apprenticeship
With the guidance and kōkua from our good friends at MAʻO Farms, after three years of planning and a pilot year to work out the kinks, and despite all the uncertainty and unknowns at the beginning of the pandemic, we chose to forge ahead and move forward with implementing our Ahupuaʻa Systems Apprenticeship (ASA) program in partnership with Windward Community College (WCC) in June of 2020. This is a two-year leadership development program which aims to encourage Windward Oʻahu public school graduates to further their formal education by providing tuition at WCC along with a paid internship at Hoʻokuaʻāina. While instilling participants with life skills, work ethics, ʻike kūpuna (ancestral knowledge), and hands-on experience in the production of food through the cultivation of kalo, we see our most important role in ASA as providing a support system for each student’s educational journey. The challenges, especially online learning, have been real for our participants and program over the last year and a half. We continue to learn and adapt to provide the best programming possible and are pleased to report that our successes have far outweighed the challenges. We could have easily canceled the program because of Covid. Still, We would have foregone the benefits of experiencing the growth and development of each participant while providing them a safe and supportive space to help them navigate the difficulties of this time. 26 windward graduates have participated in the program over the last 3 years. Our first 2 in the pilot program graduated and are now pursuing 4-year degrees in business and aeronautical science. Currently, we have 13 apprentices in Cohort 2 and 3 and will be ramping up for recruitment of Cohort 4 in the spring. If you know of any Windward seniors who might be interested, send them our way!
The second Hoʻokuaʻāina highlight of the season began in the fall of 2019 with the construction of a traditional Hawaiian hale after years of envisioning with Uncle Earl Kawaʻa, who taught us how to build and who led out the project. Earlier that year, with the generous help from our friends at Paepae o Heʻeia, we gathered mangrove wood and set the posts of our hale in the ground in January of 2020. Well, of course, Covid hit shortly after that, and our hale project was put on hold. We waited over a year before really doing much until Uncle Earl (supported by Kamehameha Schools) was ready to begin again. From the beginning of April until mid-August 2021, we worked diligently to complete the hale while continuing our other programming. It was an action-packed spring and summer, to say the least, and we wrapped up the project with no time to spare the day before the blessing and celebration of our new hale on August 14th. The hale is truly amazing and far more beautiful than I had envisioned. We could not have done it without Uncle Earl and mahalo Ke Akua for him and all the many hands that took part in itʻs creation! It is now the piko of Kapalai and our main gathering spot that we hope you will one day come and experience.
Regarding health and well-being, we often share and speak about Lōkahi and living in a personal and communal place of harmony, balance, and unity. From the perspective of our kūpuna, Lōkahi can only be achieved through our intentional and ongoing relationship with Ke Akua, our fellow kanaka, and the ʻāina and kai. This holistic view of health and well-being acknowledges that we are made up of body, mind, and spirit and encourages the necessity to mālama all aspects of ourselves.
While I try not to get caught up in the news (which often gives me a feeling of angst), I am troubled by the current focus and black and white debate on health and well-being centered on masks and Covid shots. It’s as if our health and well-being have been dumbed down and reduced to just that. Few people seem to be talking about the holistic outlook our kūpuna had. For instance, pule is essential to our physical health. Similarly, being outdoors and connecting physically with the beautiful ʻāina we’ve been blessed with nourishes our mental and spiritual state as well. It’s all interconnected. Whether we have taken the Covid shot or not, and I completely respect both choices, the primary defense we have against any sickness is our immune system. It’s well known that tension and stress hinder our immune system and that what we choose to ingest into our bodies is key to building its strength. As they say, food is medicine. I purposely and regularly eat sour poi, drink noni as a tonic and take olena in many forms as examples of preventative remedies our kūpuna used for their overall health. During this time, it seems we have forgotten that Covid is not the only thing we can get sick and die from. I heard a figure that, on average, people in the US gained 14 lbs. during the pandemic (I put on pounds during the onset of it myself). And we all know that excessive weight adds to a plethora of potential sickness and disease. Yet it seems as if discussions about the core to our physical health such as eating right and exercise have been sidelined, not to mention talk about the negative effects to our emotional well-being due to the lack of face to face (alo i ke alo) human social interaction. I could go on and on.
All this said, while we are living in an extremely challenging time, we must not lose sight of the age-old wisdom and example of health and well-being our kūpuna modeled and established for us. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill that can rectify the pandemic we are in, and it seems we will be living with Covid for some time. While I by no means contend to have the answers, I am convinced our kūpuna gave us an example and framework of how to live and thrive. The most important component being Aloha. Let us always remember this, lead out all we do and say with Aloha, and look forward with hope while utilizing the ʻike of our kūpuna to guide us onward. I pray for you and your ʻohanaʻs health and well-being.
Me ke Aloha pumehana,