By: Becca Croft, Outreach Coordinator
Aloha, my name is Becca and I am the Outreach Coordinator at Ho’okua’āina. As we welcome the new year and cast our vision for the journey ahead, we would like to take a moment of reflection and gratitude for the growth of our Kūpuna program.
The program was first developed in 2020 in response to the first COVID-19 lockdown. St. Francis Medical Center contacted Hoʻokuaʻāina to host a virtual tour of the loʻi for kūpuna who were stuck at home and feeling isolated from ‘ohana and community. This initial workshop received overwhelming interest and support, planting the seeds for a new program at Hoʻokuaʻāina for kūpuna across the Koʻolau region to explore Hawaiian culture, connect with the community, and experience the beauty of the ʻāina.
Two years later, the program is blooming as we continue to host our virtual workshop series and are now able to gather in person for educational walking tours. Our workshops and tours focus on sharing ʻōlelo noʻeau, moʻolelo, kalo production practices, and programming updates. We always take time for hoʻolauna and look to traditional Hawaiian values and ʻike kūpuna for direction and solutions on how to carry ourselves as we navigate contemporary issues.
Many participants are also now returning poi customers, allowing us to continue to connect on a more regular basis. Another aspect of the program is the distribution of fresh poi and kalo pa’a to kūpuna in the Koʻolau region. Aunty Dolinda generously distributes our poi every other week to kūpuna at Kulanakauhale Maluhia O Na Kūpuna in Waimanalo. In 2022, we donated 1,983lbs of poi!
One of the biggest gifts of the program is the intergenerational pilina building between kūpuna and the ʻōpio in our mentorship program. We have seen great value in creating spaces for generations coming together to learn, grow, and support one another. Through meeting inspiring and hardworking young people, kūpuna expressed feeling nostalgia for their youth and hope for the future. Meanwhile, ʻōpio have been able to learn from the lived experiences of kūpuna. Lilinoe, a participant in our apprenticeship program, helped to lead one of the farm tours and shared “I was honored to be there and grateful to listen to their stories and perspectives. It was reassuring to hear that we are doing a good job and on the right track.”
Kau’i Asing, a Program Administrator from St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawai’i, is central to coordinating and generating interest in the program. Looking back on the past year, Kau’i reflected “Those who attended shared how they enjoyed a return to the outdoors, fresh air, and sunshine, and felt a strong nostalgia for the days of their youth. Others who attended the virtual presentation expressed an appreciation for the opportunity ‘to get in touch with [my] Hawaiian roots and enjoy the spirituality of the presentation.’ They especially appreciate hearing all the Hawaiian words and values as experienced by the alaka`i and ʻōpio. One attendee shared, ‘Every one of the presenters spoke from the heart, which was most touching.’ We see this Kūpuna Program as an integral part of our programming as it addresses environmental, cultural, social/emotional, and physical dimensions of wellness. The feedback from caregivers and kūpuna has been amazing and we are so pleased that the program will ho’omau.”
The Kūpuna Program has blessed our organization with grounding and guidance during times of uncertainty and transition. Mahalo nui for all of the ongoing support and participation in the program, ensuring more opportunities to share poi and pilina in 2023!