Kūkuluhou Mentoring Program 2018

Uncle Dean with one of the boys from our mentoring program.

Uncle Dean with one of the boys from our Kūkuluhou Mentoring Program cleaning kalo.

Kūkuluhou Mentoring Program participant

Itʻs amazing to think that weʻve been working with the boys from Ke Kama Pono, a residential home for challenged boys, for three years now. While time sure flies, attempting to remember all the young men we have built relationships with over that period is challenging. Over 100 boys from Ke Kama Pono have been a part of our Kūkuluhou mentoring program during this time. They have come year round on a weekly basis, some for over a year, and have had the opportunity to take part in the cultivation of kalo as a means to grow and flourish. Working with humans can be a messy business, even more so when working with underprivileged, at-risk youth. But somehow we have found that when you add lots and lots of mud into that already messy equation, a positive transformational sum usually takes place! Such has been the case this past year.

Art therapy with Paint Your Paradise

We always use Hawaiian proverbs (ʻŌlelo Noʻeau) as learning tools and started off 2018 with a video voice project focusing on the proverb Kūlia I Ka Nuʻu (strive for the highest). Through group discussion, journaling exercises, and one on one interviews, the boys were challenged and asked to share how they practice kūlia i ka nu’u in their everyday lives, with the goal of creating a short video. Their videos are raw and real. Through the process of prepping for their final on-camera interview, we got to really focus in on each individual. It was a time of deep one on one quality connection, and the final video products are testaments of the transformations taking part in their lives. Check out these videos on our website. We are sure you will agree.

Our exchange with Ma’o Organic Farms

On a day in and day out basis, we continued to work the ʻāina this year marveling at how it is so faithful to grow us. The tasks of cultivating kalo is much like the “wax on, wax off” model, used by Pat Morita in the movie Karate Kid, to grow character, work ethic, and life skills in so many ways. A boy named Sean, who on his first day with us probably worked harder than he ever did in his entire life clearing the roots and logs of a brand new kalo patch, is now markedly different. From a “shell-shocked” timid kid on that first day four months ago, he now refers back to that experience with new incoming boys as if he is an ʻāina hardened kalo farmer of 30 years! While still quiet, Sean models the hard work and effort needed in the loʻi that will give him the perseverance and ethic needed to be successful in whatever he chooses to do in his life. He had never prepared and eaten poi or laulau until coming here and is now one of our most eager participants. He and others like him inspire us to continue the work we do here.

Preparing traditional Hawaiian food

In 2018 we really focused on our evaluation design and process. While the process is always evolving, this year with the help of our gracious partners, we have built, tested, revised, and are currently retesting our entire evaluation system. Not going to lie and say it was easy. Tears may have been shed. However, the lessons we learned through the process were invaluable. Ho’omau (perseverance) was another theme we touched on this year with our Kūkuluhou participants and it was the underlying theme of our evaluation growth as well. Not having the answers to tough questions and having to work and rework through the process makes success so much more gratifying. We learned to enjoy each moment of success because it doesn’t last forever. Like the lessons we teach our Kekamapono boys, we are committed to continually growing, learning, changing and evolving, always striving to be our best.

Co-written by Dean Wilhelm and Cassie Nichols