Hawai’i Island spotlight: Communities of hope and resilience

In April, the Hawai’i program team was thrilled to finally meet with partners on Hawai’i Island after two years of suspended travel due to the pandemic. The trip included in-person site visits, which allowed the team to experience the collaborations and informative solutions addressing urgent needs and highlighting long-term resilience for an island that consists of mostly rural communities. At the heart of these projects are relationships with partners that are inspiring, as well as great models to listen and learn from.    

Highlights of the trip include a visit to HOPE Services Hawai’i’s permanent housing project in the East Hawai’i community of Pahoa, which experiences some of the highest countywide rates of poverty in the state. HOPE Services Hawai’i, led by CEO Brandee Menino, is considered a valued collaborative partner on Hawai’i Island whose efforts have contributed to a four-year decline of homelessness between 2017 and 2020. The Weinberg Foundation is supporting a collaboration between HOPE Services Hawai’i, Hawai’i Island Community Development Corporation, and many others to create a community of permanent housing with supportive services for housing insecure kupuna. The nonprofit partnership is paving a way to reduce housing development costs through the advancement of a prefabricated housing model that could be applied to other housing efforts island-wide, including in workforce and agricultural housing.   

The team also had conversations with Hawai’i Island partners pivotal to food security initiatives across Hawai’i Island, including The Food Basket, Kohala Center, Hawai’i County, and Vibrant Hawai’i. The group brainstormed ways to sustain and expand the critical work prompted by the pandemic and the continued need to increase access to fresh and healthy food. Several of these partners are core to the Hawai’i Good Food Alliance, a statewide network of community leaders who work together to ensure Hawai’i’s most vulnerable residents have access to nutritious, locally produced food. The alliance secures funding for common capital and program needs, supports a learning hui of food hubs, and brings health care providers, farmers, and ‘aina-based organizations together to serve the collective betterment of the island and state.  

The trip concluded with a visit to the Hamakua coast, to the area of Kaholalele where Noʻeau Peralto, Haley Kailiehu, Kodie Solis-Kalani, and their dedicated team of young adult leaders of Hui Malama i ke Ala ʻUlili (HuiMAU) have embodied a vision of restoration and healing. Through the support of the Weinberg Foundation and other partners, they are bringing health to the land and their community—two things that are inextricably connected. HuiMAU is growing food and cultivating youth through work-based learning opportunities and educational programming that is grounded in values of indigenous practice, wisdom, and creativity. Through a focused regenerative approach, they are transforming their community with healthy food and eco-systems and strong families that can live and thrive in Hamakua for generations.    

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