On a windy East Maui evening, a tree crashed by way of the roof of a Hana dwelling. Uncle and Auntie had no insurance coverage and little cash, in order that they requested the youth constructing program of the native nonprofit Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike for assist. Collectively, a gaggle of highschool youngsters designed a brand new cottage for the couple and commenced the challenge.
Uncle, who had been battling most cancers, would sit in his wheelchair every day, coated by blankets, and watch the children work. As the home neared completion, he continued to develop weaker till, one afternoon, Auntie known as just a few of the scholar builders to his bedside. He took their palms and made them promise to complete the work and handle his spouse. Uncle handed away later that evening. The scholars accomplished the house and got here away from Uncle’s perpetually modified.
There was quite a lot of speak not too long ago about what work is taken into account “important” to satisfy our society’s most simple wants. Meals, shelter and well being high the checklist. Right here in Hawaii, the dialog turns into much more refined: How can we diversify our financial system to be much less reliant on the surface affect of tourism, to develop into extra self-sustaining, utilizing the assets we have now right here at dwelling?
Let’s start with our youth. What if we may prepare them to develop into expert in these important industries, serving each their educations and the way forward for their communities? What if we taught youngsters the right way to construct, to supply shelter and pressing dwelling enhancements for his or her kupuna (elders) and different susceptible populations? What if we skilled youth in natural agriculture, so they may study to develop wholesome soil and meals for his or her ohana (households)? And what if we taught our college students well being by way of a cultural lens, the place rising an necessary staple crop corresponding to kalo (taro) meant revitalizing its cultural practices whereas bettering household well being?
In 2000, Rick Rutiz, a homebuilder within the remoted East Maui neighborhood of Hana, determined to strive the primary of those theories. He started the nonprofit group Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike (In Working, One Learns) to show highschool youngsters building trades. Quickly after, he and I met and I joined him within the work.
The scholars’ first coaching tasks? To construct a counselor’s workplace, a pc lab, an arts pavilion — real-life examples of training past the 4 partitions, the place youngsters may study theories and ideas with their very own palms.
As this system grew, we acknowledged there have been wants exterior of faculty that the children’ coaching would possibly fulfill, so our tasks reached into the neighborhood. By this time, Rick and I had married.
The scholars began constructing dwelling expansions within the subdivision, to assist households with a number of generations crowded beneath the identical roof. Our youth realized to put in photo voltaic photovoltaic techniques and took Hana houses towards sustainable power technology. Once we heard the information of an area home unexpectedly burning to the bottom, our younger builders led a neighborhood effort to rebuild it over a single weekend.
Our children grew to become a rapid-response workforce to assist those that wanted it most, constructing security enhancements in kupuna houses — over 70 so far — so Hana elders may proceed dwelling surrounded by family members.
College students constructed ramps and rails for individuals who had fallen or had been returning dwelling from sudden surgical procedures. They put in bathhouses fueled by photo voltaic scorching water techniques for prolonged households to share.
Youth who had been as soon as struggling in class started incomes a extremely revered place in our neighborhood. As one scholar put it, “After I assist folks and so they get what they want, I really feel like a superhero.”
In 2010, Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike launched Mahele Farm, a neighborhood farm the place apprentices, kupuna and children work and study collectively, and all convey dwelling a part of the day’s harvest — a mean of two,000 kilos of natural produce every month. When you think about that Hawaii imports about 90% of its meals from exterior the islands, the farm strengthens not solely intergenerational bonds however our neighborhood’s independence, its resilience.
5 years in the past, the nonprofit launched a 3rd program, Mālama Hāloa, to share the cultural observe of pounding kalo. By instructing the traditional custom of creating poi-pounding boards and stones, rising kalo and pounding it into pai ai and poi, this system offers youth the instruments to spearhead the well being of their very own ohana. Within the phrases of one other scholar, “Pounding kalo into poi is sweet for the soul.”
Up till the pandemic, the nonprofit’s bustling packages collectively served an annual common of 600-plus members. These packages labored as a result of success was put instantly into the palms of our youth — to develop into each learners and leaders.
And the packages nonetheless work as we speak, thanks largely to the graduates who got here again as apprentices and later developed into workers. When Rick and I retired from the nonprofit in 2019, we had been capable of go the torch on to the following technology. They’re now guiding Hana’s future.
For many years, tourism has been the biggest single supply of earnings for Hawaii’s financial system. However this exterior dependence has made our financial system susceptible. Over the summer time months of 2020, Hawaii’s unemployment price hovered between 12% –13%, in comparison with 8%-10% nationally.
The present pandemic has additionally magnified points that might be addressed by a extra community-based method to training and financial growth. Security enhancements may hold kupuna within the care of household, away from the elevated danger of virus unfold in care services. Farm and kui kalo packages may present options to a reliance on imported meals and associated meals shortages throughout crises.
Every neighborhood has its personal challenges — and its personal strengths. There are elements of the constructing, farm and kui packages that might be tailored to different environments wherever there’s a related want. The hassle merely requires passionate folks with a willingness to be ever versatile.
Rick didn’t begin Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike with a proper plan or in depth monetary backing. He took a good suggestion to 5 of the shoppers he was constructing houses for and was given 5 checks to assist get the thought off the bottom. At this time, a a lot bigger Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike is supported by grants and donors devoted to the Hana neighborhood.
In Hana, we selected to by no means cost the kupuna who had been assisted by our youth, believing it’s extra empowering for youths to be motivated as an alternative by kokua (serving to others). However there might be some ways to method the above ideas and to create round economies inside our communities.
Perhaps it takes dwelling in a small, remoted city to find how reliant we’re on one another for our survival. Perhaps it takes a pandemic. But it surely’s time to look to ourselves to develop into caretakers of our islands — not simply within the face of disaster, however to shift our financial system away from dependence and vulnerability and towards self-sustenance and power.