Annual Appeals Letter from our Directors, Dean & Michele Wilhelm

Ho’okua’āina's Growth Chart for 2013 to 2018

November 24th, 2019

Aloha mai kākou,

Another year of connection, cultivation, and healing has flown by at Ho‘okua‘āina.  We often challenge the young people we work with to reflect on their year as a tool for self-assessment and a basis for future goal setting and growth.  The challenge now is ours to share highlights of 2019 as well as some of Ho’okua’āina’s ambitious goals for 2020–which we will need your kōkua to achieve.  

Hundreds of young people come to Ho’okua’āina each year desiring to create individual and community well-being through a return to the ‘āina, and we are committed to making a positive impact on their lives. The Kūkuluhou mentoring program, for youth ages 12-18 who are facing challenging life circumstances, remains the heart and soul of what we do.  Our Kupuohi education program also continues to blossom, with numerous teachers bringing their students to Ho’okua’āina four times a year to experience and learn from the process and commitment it takes to cultivate kalo. Our approach has always been to “go deep” in our instruction and relationships with young people rather than having one-off interactions.

In addition to our youth programs, we have hosted thousands of people from up the street as well as from around the world. Due in part to the extensive network we reach via social media (thanks to the amazing work of our Program Manager, Cassie Nichols), we often have trouble accommodating the growing demand of groups wanting to visit us at Ho’okua’āina. We see this groundswell of interest as a hōʻailona (sign or symbol) as more and more people are seeking ways to make connections with the ‘āina. Between demand for mentoring and learning by young people and visits by community groups, we’ve got our hands full. But this is a challenge that we embrace!

We would not be able to handle the tremendous growth of our work and impact without our crew of six co-farm managers and interns–who we now refer to as our “Fellows.” This year we made a concerted effort to build our Fellows’ capacity as leaders by offering a wide array of professional development trainings, having them manage all farm operations, including them in organizational decision making, and—so importantly—mentoring and teaching our young people and visitors. Our whole staff has stepped up, and we share with confidence that the future of our organization is indeed bright.  

We are seeking support for two exciting initiatives in 2020.  The first is to help us build a traditional Hawaiian hālau structure in our loʻi area.  The hālau will allow us to host groups down in a sheltered area in the taro patch instead of under a tent on our road, and the aesthetic beauty it will add to the loʻi will be like the “cherry on the top of a hot fudge sundae.” Much of the building materials we need have been given to us or will be gathered, but as in all building projects we need a buffer to cover unforeseen and under projected costs.  Our goal is to complete the hālau in time to host next year’s fundraiser on August 15th, 2020. 

The other initiative we invite you to support is the ‘Ahupua’a Systems Apprenticeship program Ho’okua’āina has developed with Windward Community College (WCC).  This program targets graduates of Windward District schools who are passionate about aloha ‘āina but may not have seriously considered continuing their education. Participants will receive tuition assistance for their schooling at WCC, which will include the choice of numerous ‘āina and sustainability courses. While in school, participants will do a paid internship at Ho’okua’āina (and other partner sites in Ko’olaupoko to be added)—getting hands-on real-world learning that supports the classroom curricula.  Ho’okua’āina will be participants’ family of support, holding them accountable to their kuleana and helping them ensure success in their higher education journey. The long-term goal of the program is to cultivate a cadre of young graduates who are connected to the place they are from, hold dear the values of aloha ‘āina, and become the future leaders of our community.

When we began clearing the dense hau bush that covered our ‘āina more than 10 years ago, we knew that passion alone couldn’t manifest our vision of a gathering place that would bring healing to people.  As we share with our young people, ʻaʻohe hana nui ke alu ʻia, no task is too great when accomplished together by all.  Your kōkua, your support, is everything.

Thank you for your interest in hearing from us and for your continued support.   We hope you have a wonderful holiday season full of joy and goodness.  

Me ke aloha nui,
Dean & Michele Wilhelm

Your donation, no matter how large or small, will support our cause and make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.

Ho‘okua‘āina empowers youth to realize the meaning and purpose of their lives by helping them develop life strategies and skills through the cultivation of kalo and Hawaiian values-based coaching.

Together we can restore our ‘āina and community to health and abundance. 100% of all contributions are invested back into our programs to make us less reliant on foundation grants and more sustainable as an organization. Mahalo Nui for your support.

Hoʻokuaʻāina is a 501c3 non-profit organization.
All contributions are tax deductible.

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“I probably wouldn’t have graduated from high school if it weren’t for Uncle Dean and going to the lo’i.”
- Wyatt, Kūkuluhou Participant

"Not only is it [the lo'i] an escape from the chaos and displeasure happening behind the scenes in my life but a space for healing as well."
- Zach, Intern