Keaukaha youth use island huaka‘i to focus on community
A recent two-day adventure took a group of young men from Keaukaha around Hawai‘i Island to brainstorm and focus on projects that will build a stronger Keaukaha community. The December huaka‘i, led by SPF-SIG Project Coordinator Kalani Kahalioumi of the Mayor’s Office, took 12 ‘ōpio ages 10-17 through every moku of the island.
The group traveled through Hāmākua and into Kohala, where they enjoyed breakfast and brainstorming at Kēōkea Beach Park. Following some time in the ocean, the group continued on to the Pololū Valley lookout, Kawaihae Boat Ramp, and Kiholo Bay, where the discussion continued. Next stop was Miloli‘i, where the group set up camp for the night.
After preparing dinner and watching the fishing boats go out to sea, the ‘ōpio visited State Senator Gil Kahele at his home to learn about the story of Miloli‘i, the last Hawaiian fishing village on the island.
In the morning, the group cleaned up the beach park at Miloli‘i before taking a three-mile hike to Honomalino Bay. The ‘ōpio enjoyed more time in the ocean, but not before concluding the focus group and firming up their commitment to their community. The group returned via Ka‘ū, stopping at Kāwā and Punalu‘u to feed their remaining provisions to the hungry, before arriving back home in Keaukaha.
Two activities that came out of the youth’s focus group were a bodyboarding competition to be held at Kealoha Beach Park, a youth biathlon in Keaukaha. “The more alternatives you provide kids, the less likely they are to participate in negative behaviors,” Kahalioumi said.
The bigger project that promises to be a legacy for Keaukaha is constructing a rock wall around Hualani Park, the piko or spiritual center of the community. The rock wall would cement the park’s role as a pu‘uhonua, a safe place for the families of Keaukaha.
“I was amazed when I heard this idea come out of the group. So many of the important places that we saw on our huaka‘i were enclosed by rock walls that held within the mana of those who built it,” Kahalioumi said.
The focus group utilized the Strategic Prevention Framework, a method of planning projects to enact change in communities – in the instance of Hawai‘i’s projects, to reduce and prevent underage drinking for youths 12-17 years old. Transportation on a Hele-On bus was provided by the County’s Mass Transit Agency, and food for the trip was provided by Luana Kawelu and Lance Niimi of the Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center.
“Visiting all of these places on our island, hearing the stories from Uncle Gil, it all made the kids appreciate their home even more. They came home fired up to work on implementing the projects they came up with,” Kahalioumi said.