Aloha! I am Keʻalohilani and I am from Kapaʻakea in Mōʻiliʻili. In the summer of 2017, I participated in a sustainability, project management internship that focused on various projects, and one of them was the Board and Stone Project. That summer I learned how to make papa and pohaku kuʻi ʻai. I also recall a single day where I worked in a cubicle for 8 hours and I told myself I could never do that again. I saw my friend Maile doing an internship with an organization called Hoʻokuaʻāina, and it piqued my interest because I wanted to learn more about kalo and loʻi since me and my grandma made a board and stone. She also mentioned something about it changing her life a little, so I thought I’d apply. Oh–and I can’t leave out that I left Oʻahu to play volleyball in Memphis 5,000 miles away, and my spirit needed some refueling.
My first summer working here in 2018 was a transitioning mode for me. I was transferring back home to attend Chaminade, having an internal and cultural battle of whether or not to study Business, and deciding if I was going to walk away from a nine-year relationship…with volleyball (hahaha but seriously).
Fast forward a year and a half, I am still at the loʻi thanks to the timing and welcoming crew that have allowed me to grow with Hoʻokuaʻāina. I now have a new chapter being written every single day, and I seriously am so grateful for my support system, my new brothers and sisters, and a little proud of myself for trusting my naʻau and taking a leap of faith by doing something new and saying aloha to a sport that gave me so much.
In my time here at the loʻi, I was able to strengthen and embrace parts of myself that I either didn’t know existed or simply took for granted. I have nothing to complain of in my life, but something Kapalai and the mud does for me is heal and allow me to strengthen my spiritual connection that really was brought out in those moments of working in silence.
In recent months, I am constantly humbled and learning to have grace, as I am exposed to a variety of people and backgrounds, especially those of our Hawaiian community. Growing up and finding out that not everyone did “Hawaiian things” was a huge shock for me. Now that I am older, working at Hoʻokuaʻāina has forced me to reflect on my upbringing, and realize these “Hawaiian things” and practices, mindsets, values that I was brought up with–are not normal anymore (not to say there’s one set way.) My lifelong goal is to serve my community, especially my Hawaiian people, and Hoʻokuaʻāina has opened my eyes to individuals and families whose values and cultures have been erased and absent for years upon years. It’s a living nightmare for sure, but my experience so far at Kapalai has helped to crystallize my why and goals in life. Currently, I am studying Business at Chaminade, and plan to utilize my entrepreneurial and business endeavors to flip the script and benefit our people and communities. I may not see the fruits of our labor in my lifetime, but I do it for my kupuna who fought for my existence, and therefore do it for those unborn babies that I will never meet.