Meet Zack

My name is Zachary Pilien, home is Kāne’ohe, and I am a Kalo farmer

My story with Ho’okua’āina begins shortly after I finished my studies at UH Mānoa in the spring of 2016. I had chosen Plant and Environment Protection Sciences as my major field of study, with intentions of doing forestry and conservation work in the mountains. I spent the summer submitting applications for jobs in these fields but was never accepted for any of them. Eventually, I gave up, stopped looking for jobs, and spent my time having fun, making anykine, and most importantly volunteering. A friend of mine who was familiar with Ho’okua’āina brought me down to work with the crew for a day, introducing me to Uncle Dean. A couple of weeks later I found myself again at the lo’i, throwing sticks for five hours straight as the newest member of Ho’okua’āina’s internship program.

Some time has passed and so much has happened since that day; it’s crazy looking back and reflecting on it all. At first, I viewed my internship as just a job, a really cool job, but every now and then I would see a position open up somewhere else and send an application. In the back of my mind, I still wanted to be in the mountains or at least get in working with the State. Gradually I became more and more comfortable with the rest of the work crew, opening up to them and really enjoying their company. Before long we were singing together, having laughs together, and even consulting each other on the deeper more personal aspects of life – all while working hard and getting things done at the lo’i.

The building of this relationship really culminated when we all went to Maui together. For four days we slept in the same house together, ate together, worked together, explored together – everything we did, we did together. We all realized that we were no longer just a work crew, we had become a family.

The lo’i has become my home. There is no place I would rather be, and now I would never consider leaving for another job. This is the best job I will ever have and I know for certain that someday I will look back on this time as the “good old days”. I wanted to work in the mountains because there was a time when hiking and being in the mountains was my escape from the dissatisfaction and frustration of my former life. Instead, fate brought me to Ho’okua’āina where I have found an even greater sanctuary, a sanctuary where I can truly be myself, where I am surrounded by some of my closest friends and our mentor Uncle Dean, where I am pushed to grow and better myself, and where I can share all of this with the many people who come to work with us weekly.

I don’t know where life will bring me next or when that may be. But I do know that I will forever carry the memories, experiences, and memories that this place and this family have continued to bless me with. I truly feel like I am a part of this place. Wherever I go I will carry Ho’okua’āina with me and maybe I can touch peoples’ lives in the same way that Ho’okua’āina has touched mine.

My name is Zachary Pilien, home is Kāne’ohe, and I am a Kalo farmer