Aloha Mai Kākou,
I hope everyone is enjoying their summer! My last newsletter over three months ago was quite dire regarding the need for us all to be socially responsible in the face of mitigating COVID 19 with the mindset of preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. I think it safe to say that while we have indeed been impacted by this pandemic, we are moving through it far better than what has taken place in many other parts of the world. We still need to be vigilant and work through the negative fallout, but can indeed be thankful and commend ourselves for our response. Mahalo ke Akua!
While many businesses and organizations had to shut down due to the circumstances of COVID 19, we actually became busier than ever. As an essential service and the largest producer of kalo on the island of Oʻahu, we focused more keenly on ramping up our production efforts. For safety reasons, we ceased making poi and hosting groups but kept our staff working and through stimulus money hired 14 temporary interns for eight weeks who helped us in the effort to grow more food. We indeed experienced a significant rise in demand for kalo and, through the support and partnership with other organizations, sought to help our community by feeding people, donating kalo, and giving out thousands of huli for others to plant. We also continued to maintain our education program and connection with our partnering schools and students through outreach and online learning, and because our amazing Cassie Nichols thought it was time, she, along with the help of Michele and Dani, redid our website! In spite of the uncertainty of how to navigate and move forward during this time, we commenced with our Ahupua’a Systems Apprenticeship Program in partnership with Windward Community College, and on June 8th welcomed 13 participants from four of our Windward highschools. We will be working with them for the next two years providing them a place to learn and work while supporting them through their post-high educational journey. Like everyone, we’ve also been adjusting to virtual communicating and learning. I must confess, I long to return to the pre-zoom call days and not having to subject people to hearing my voice or seeing my face online! My continued apologies.
As we all know, seasons change. For three years we’ve had the privilege of having Dani Espiritu as our Education Specialist. She is an amazing teacher who not only developed relationships with so many schools, teachers and students, but also lives out her values, the same that Hoʻokuaʻāina seeks to embody, through her teaching and manner. In June, she transitioned out of her position with us as a staff member to finish her doctoral dissertation. We will be forever grateful to her many contributions and she will be greatly missed, yet will always be a part of our Hoʻokuaʻāina ʻohana.
As Dani transitioned out, we knew it would be extremely difficult to fill her shoes. Instead of trying to hire for her position, we created a new position- Education and Outreach Coordinator. We are pleased to announce the hiring of Makana Wilhelm, a recent graduate from the Hawaiian Studies and Language program at UH Hilo. Makana brings to the team fresh and innovative perspectives and ideas to engage with our community. She is helping to navigate the challenges of virtual learning and our connection with the schools and community groups we have built relationships with who have not been able to visit us physically during this time. In addition, she adds greater depth to our Hawaiian culture and language foundation of teaching as well as her intimate understanding of the mission and purpose of Hoʻokuaʻāina. We believe she will challenge us and help us grow as an organization.
We are so looking forward to the time when we can have groups return and make poi again. Until things open up and we are able to do so, please continue to engage with us on our social media sites @hookuaaina. Connecting with us in this manner means so much because in-person relationship (pilina) and experiential engagement are some of our most important values. If we canʻt meet face to face, at least we can connect in this manner. E mālama ʻoe i kou kino! (take care of your health)