December 4th, 2020
Aloha mai kākou,
As we all know, 2020 has indeed been a year full of challenges and adversity for many. Like everyone, we at Hoʻokuaʻāina are trying our hardest to pivot and adapt to the times to best meet the needs of our surrounding communities while continuing to fulfill the mission close to our hearts: to empower youth, especially those at risk, and strengthen community through the cultivation of kalo.
Since March, when the effects of the pandemic began to unfold here in Hawaiʻi, we were blessed to be deemed an essential business, thus able to continue the vital production of kalo. Although we had halted poi production, the sudden increase in demand for raw kalo caught us off guard. In addition to new orders, we became aware of the need in our communities to increase access to healthy food, and partnered with Hui Mālama o ke Kai and Hoʻoulu ʻĀina to provide nearly 5000 pounds of kalo to distribute to struggling families. Amidst the challenges of this unprecedented time, the silver lining is a heightened awareness of Hawaiʻi’s food insecurity and an increased desire in individuals to grow food. We seized upon this and organized huli drives to encourage families to grow their own kalo, while offering tutorials to support their success. The response has been overwhelming. People are more excited than ever and determined to learn to grow their own food. Since May, we have given out over 10,000 huli to over 500 families across the island, many of them first time growers.
All of our other programming had to quickly shift as well. In March, 48 groups canceled their visits and our fully booked calendar was suddenly erased. The loss of physical connection and increased isolation were the most common hardships expressed by our regular visitors. We needed to quickly shift our focus as an organization to address this immediate concern for the mental health of our loved ones. Again, we saw another opportunity, and videos and virtual lessons became a new medium for many to connect with the staff and ʻāina they had built pilina with over the years. As a result, our reach and impact has grown. One of the gems that has emerged from this time is a new wellness workshop series in partnership with St. Francis Wellness Center that we offer to our beloved kūpuna.
Thankfully, our internship and Ahupuaʻa Systems Apprenticeship (ASA) programs safely continue without restriction, which helps us meet the demand for kalo. Twelve apprentices will successfully complete their first semester of full-time college this month, while two others who started last year are on their way to receiving their degree in May. All of them work in the loʻi at least 10-15 hours per week and have truly become a part of the Hoʻokuaʻāina ʻohana as we support them through their educational and life journey.
In this season, we are most grateful for those of you who support and encourage us to continue striving to meet the most important needs in our community. Understand that you are a vital part of this work and that we could not do it without you. 100% of your unrestricted donation this year enables Hoʻokuaʻāina to continue programs and services for at-risk youth, struggling families, students and our precious kūpuna.
Until we are able to meet again face-to-face, we send you our aloha filled with prayers of peace, health, and waiwai during this season and all the year through.
Me ke aloha nui,
Dean and Michele