by HCBC member Mary Tam of Na Hopena
Hau’oli Lā Kūʻokoʻa! For those not familiar with this holiday, Lā Kūʻokoʻa was established in 1843 to commemorate Hawaiʻi’s sovereignty. Following the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the observance of Lā Kūʻokoʻa largely dissipated. Fortunately, in recent years there has been a resurgence of this special day to honor land, culture, language, and community. While such practices need not be confined to a single day, November 28 is an opportunity to participate in activities that pay homage to Hawai’i’s heritage. Check out this short video on Hawaiian Independence Day created by Kanaeokana, as well as this post by Hulili Ke Kukui, which provides several resources to learn more about Lā Kūʻokoʻa and how everyone can partake in it.
There is much to celebrate, and also much to be done to strengthen communities in and beyond the islands. As we reflect on the year behind us, there was certainly no shortage of obstacles. Some of us are fortunate enough to be employed, housed, and healthy. Some of us have lost jobs. Some of us are attempting to participate in a web conference while scrambling to get the keiki situated for distance learning, and cleaning up a massive fried rice spill in the kitchen. Some of us are struggling to figure out how to keep our families fed.
In these times, our local nonprofits have stepped up to meet the community’s needs, even as they themselves face constant setbacks and uncertainty. Despite logistical challenges presented by the pandemic, a massive influx in needs amidst reduced funding, and ongoing issues related to racial justice, economic security, and social and environmental health, our nonprofit partners continue to push head-on into the tropical storm.
With the holiday season – and end of year giving habits – upon us, we wanted to dedicate this post to elevating the important work being done by our local nonprofits. While Hawai’i Community Benefit Consultants (HCBC) does not endorse or promote specific organizations, HCBC members personally support nonprofits, as individuals.
Below is a compilation of Hawai’i nonprofits that inspire our members. In addition to individual support, we wanted to offer them a virtual cheeehooooo. We extend our gratitude to the countless organizations doing awesome work across the islands, and invite readers to continue populating this list in the comments if there are nonprofits or groups that they want to lift up!
Aloha Harvest | Supported by Elizabeth Kent
Aloha Harvest rescues and redistributes good food that would go to the landfill and shares it with agencies feeding the hungry. In Hawaii, about one in five people need assistance yet we throw away lots of good food. This organization of caring people is helping those who need it and supporting our community. Stores, restaurants and others have good food they can’t use and others can benefit. It’s a great concept!
Bishop Museum | Supported by Chris Marvin
Bishop Museum is a 131-year-old institution that serves as the cultural and natural history museum of Hawai‘i. The steward of our royal treasures, the Museum offers us all a chance to learn and play while providing visitors with a picture of our islands through indigenous and local eyes. Like many nonprofits, the Museum has struggled through the loss of tourism, but is maintaining visitor, research, education programs, while keeping all staff employed. Now is the time to visit and support Hawai‘i’s Museum.
Hawai’i Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice | Supported by Joyce Lee-Ibarra
I support Hawaii Appleseed not only because of its focus on issues that are important to me, such as fair wages and affordable housing, but also because I appreciate its upstream approach in addressing systems and policies that keep people who are institutionally marginalized from thriving.
Hawaii Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders FASD Action Group | Supported by Cleo Brown
FASD is 100% preventable! To raise awareness about the impact of alcohol on the fetus during pregnancy.
Hawai’i Forest Institute | Supported by Paul Arinaga
I support the Hawaii Forest Institute because it’s a small, modest organization that nonetheless gets a lot done such as restoring native forests, educating children and adults, and providing habitat for native forest birds. I’m particularly excited about the “Go Native: Growing a Native Hawaiian Urban Forest” project that envisions getting the community to grow more native plants so that someday forest once again stretches from mauka to makai.
Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center | Supported by Heather Pierucki
Focused on stigma-influenced work, tough to reach populations.
Hawaii Symphony Orchestra | Supported by Carolann Biederman
The Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra is our state’s only professional symphony. I appreciate that the exceptional musicians can still present beautiful performances virtually, despite the pandemic. To me, the arts are an essential business, and the symphony is a treasure that brings hope, peace, joy, and healing of the spirit to our turbulent times.
Ka’ala Farm | Supported by Mary Tam
Ka’ala Farm lives and breathes culture and community. Their mission is to reclaim and preserve the living culture of the Poʻe Kahiko (people of old) in order to strengthen the kinship relationships between the ʻāina (land, that which nourishes) and all forms of life necessary to sustain the balance of life on these venerable lands. Programs support youth and adults who face a wide variety of life challenges, and they are looking to expand learning spaces at the farm. Honored to support them!
Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA) | Supported by Jennifer Barrett
I’ve been a quiet cheerleader for KUA since its origins as a program of the Community Conservation Network. At that time, it was one of the few initiatives that truly walked its talk of working only where invited and honoring the need for community to be at the forefront of natural resource management. Today, the KUA team continues to innovate in partnership with community to craft ways of working that are rooted in the values, practices, and knowledge of our most precious resource: Hawaii’s people.
Maui Economic Opportunity | Supported by Melissa Hampe
Maui Economic Opportunity is the sole Maui County non-profit dedicated to comprehensively serving those in poverty. Chartered in 1965, MEO has been “helping people…changing lives” for the elderly, disabled, immigrants, youth, offenders, and economically disadvantaged. MEO serves more than 23,000 individuals and families in need, touching more than 69,000 lives throughout Maui County and across Hawai’i through its statewide programming.
PBS Hawai‘i | Supported by Joy Miura Koerte
PBS Hawai‘i connects and convenes residents of all ages, income levels, and locations (even in the most remote areas of the state) with quality, wholesome digital programming focused on education, civil discourse, culture and the arts, history, and shaping Hawaii’s future.
Surfrider Spirit Sessions | Supported by Cynthia Derosier
Spirit Sessions is so unique! Custom built for Hawaii’s at risk teens… multi-faceted approach tailored to propelling at-risk teens to great achievements and success, …programs rely on mentors and the Hawaiian sport of surfing, connecting community, culture, physical activity and the kai and aina…it’s literally helped youth change their lives in tremendous ways, just by building up confidence and connections through surfing…only in Hawaii! Love their virtual Zoom backgrounds by local photographers.
Touch a Heart Hawaii | Supported by Jennifer Oyer
Touch a Heart Hawaii helps to transform the lives of those facing barriers to employment by providing vocational training in a healing and nurturing environment, creating pathways to job placement. They also have an amazing social enterprise component (the best baked goods EVER!) that helps to support their programs.
travel2change | Supported by Mondenna Jamshidi Kent
Travel2change.org is an innovative approach to harnessing the abundant goodwill toward environmental and Hawaiian cultural restoration by placing it at the center of fun and impact. Connecting the local community to free and low-cost volunteer and sustainable education opportunities that support local agencies in need, travel2change allows students, low-income individuals as well as others to connect to activities that give back while creating a positive impact across Hawai’i.
YWCA O’ahu | Supported by Savannah Allshouse
YWCA O’ahu has been serving the community of the island since 1900. The mission of YWCA O’ahu is to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. I have personally seen the impact their programs have had on improving the lives of women and their families by providing the tools, resources, and support that empower women to become physically fit, mentally balanced, and financially stable. These programs help to break the cycle of poverty and create the next generation of community-minded women.
Donations and visibility are important, but there are many structural changes to be made in order to truly support the nonprofit ecosystem. Ensuring staff have a living wage. Addressing power dynamics within and between organizations. Ending the expectation that nonprofits can carry out effective work without incurring administrative expenses.
As we engage with nonprofit organizations through our giving, work, and community partnerships, we must keep in mind the values we claim to embrace, and make sure those values are upheld in nonprofit systems. Mahalo for joining us in showing respect today, and every day, for those who are on the frontlines of service and whose work keeps Hawaiian culture alive here in the islands. Keep it pono!
With a focus on stakeholder engagement, Mary Tam helps nonprofit organizations arrive at fully-informed decisions and action plans.