Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kahoʻolawe Mural Art Program

Some of the mural art program's youth participants
Earlier this year, the KIRC formed a collaboration with Kihei Charter School and Maui artists geared to engage the next generation in restoring, protecting and preserving Kahoʽolawe while also prompting a community dialogue about the importance of doing this work.

Student presents her ideas for the mural
Over the course of just two weeks, a group of 50+ participants aged 12 & 13 excitedly exchanged word associations, visual concepts and ideas taken from their Mālama Kahoʻolawe curriculum (available at http://kahoolawe.hawaii.gov/plans-policies-reports.shtml) in order to create a public mural to help teach others about Kahoʻolawe. Led by KIRC staff and artists Valentin Miró-Quesada + Jennifer Brown, main themes began to emerge as the students sharpened their messages about Kahoʻolawe into a mural blueprint. Together, and through many versions of their cohesive concept, (via drawings and individual oral presentations), a final image materialized. Within 3 days, the image was transferred to a 40-foot storage container being repurposed as part of a native plant nursery at the KIRC's Kihei Boat House property.

Prepping the container for student participation
"For the seventh and eighth graders at Kihei Charter School, this is an opportunity to work with real scientists, historians, and preservationists in the field, getting their hands dirty, and making meaningful connections between the things they learn in class and the world around them," states former school director Jen Fordyce, "For some of our kids, it is the best part of coming to school (and the kind of experience that will hopefully keep them from dropping out in the future)."

By learning to work together, contributing ideas and gradually incorporating parts of everyone's perception, participating youth significantly impacted the space, the community and the way those passing by the mural might consider Kahoʻolawe.

Students collaborate on mural vision
Today, just past the Kihei Boat Ramp, you can see their work of art which illustrates Kahoʻolawe volunteers requesting permission to serve Kanaloa (personified by the kino lau, or body form, of the heʻe, or octopus), with hoʻokupu of native plants - just as bid by protocol. 

The mural was unveiled at the KIRC's inaugural Mahinaʻai Night in May of 2015, an important part of the mural making process offering time for reflection. This Thursday, November 19, we invite you and your ʻohana to join us at our culminating Mahinaʻai Night event; the last in a series of 2015 events sponsored by the Maui County Product Enrichment Program (CPEP), to celebrate the Kahoʻolawe Mural Art Program. Together, let's ponder those same questions explored by these extraordinary young artists and make plans for continuing to share the spirit of Aloha Kahoʻolawe with our Maui community & beyond.

  • What do you see? How does it relate to Kahoʻolawe?
  • What effects can murals have on their environment and the people who see them?
  • How does the mural make you feel when you look at each part?
  • How does working together as a group instead of independently change the outcome?
  • What can you "say" with art and murals?
  • Where else do you find symbols that have a message to tell you?

Mahinaʻai Night is here! Please help us celebrate:
Thursday, November 19, 2015
5:30 - 7:30 PM | FREE
RSVP's Requested here or at 808.243.5020

NOTES: Park at the Kihei Boat Ramp and follow signs for the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) - just a short walk to the boat house site (2780 South Kihei Road). Flash lights and closed-toe footwear are strongly recommended as you will be walking on a mulch-lined path amongst kiawe. Because there are no ATM's on site, please bring cash or checks if you plan to purchase food, beverages or to make a contribution to the Kaho'olawe Rehabilitation Trust Fund.
Sample mural concepts
Mural concept
Revised mural concept
And revised again
Student vision
Student vision
Student vision
Day 1 of 3 days of mural install

Day 3 of mural install

Friday, November 13, 2015

KIRC Collaborates with UH Maui's Institute of Hawaiian Music for its Final Mahina‘ai Night

The KIRC is proud to collaborate with UH Maui's Institute of Hawaiian Music (IHM) for its (final) Mahina‘ai event on Thursday, November 19, 2015 from 5:30-7:30 PM.

An exemplary program that mentors and trains aspiring musicians in performing, singing, composition, repertoire development, recording techniques, and marketing of Hawaiian music, IHM comes to us through the leadership of Dr. Keola Donaghy. Here, we learn a bit more about Keola and IHM's involvement with Kaho‘olawe.

Why are you volunteering your time for Mahina‘ai?
I grew up in Kama‘ole myself, in the 1970s, when the bombing was still going on, and first visited Kaho‘olawe in 1993. Today's generation and those who have moved here need to be reminded of the history of the island, the damage that was inflicted not only to the island but the Hawaiian people because of its abuse.

We have drastically scaled down access and operations on Kaho'olawe due to the results of this year's legislative session. How do you think these Mahina‘ai events can help garner more support for the 2016 session?
I think that events like these are crucial to raising awareness of the dire situation of KIRC, and the pressing need for ongoing financial support in its effort to rehabilitate the island. People cannot see the damage that was inflicted on the island from our vantage point on Maui, so they do need to be reminded that there is an incredible amount of work remaining to be done.
KIRC staff and IHM student Kui Gapero

Why is it important to gather community in recognition of this cause? How can music play a part in that process?
Music played a huge role in the Hawaiian Renaissance, documenting what was going on and being a voice for social and political change. It still does, and I try to instill in my students the importance of using their talents to support their community and to contribute to social causes such as this.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Regarding the Institute of Hawaiian Music, people should know that we are always looking for new students. We have students from late teens to their sixites, some who have recorded CDs and others that know just a few chords and songs. Hawaiian or not, long-time residents, or malihini. Whether they speak Hawaiian or not now, they will learn. We invest a lot of effort into our students and simply ask that they invest as much in them selves, their studies, rehearsals and performances. The next semester is less than two months away, so anyone interested can contact me. Feel free to share my email and phone number 808-769-8133.

Ocean talk at Mahina'ai night
Keola is a prolific haku mele (composer of Hawaiian poetry), whose compositions have been recorded by Keali‘i Reichel, Kenneth Makuakāne, Kainani Kahaunaele, Amy Hānaiali‘i, The Pandanus Club, The De Lima ‘Ohana, O’Brian Eselu, Patrick Landeza, and Steven Espaniola. He has received numerous nominations for the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards as a composer, producer, and liner note annotator. Keola is the Faculty Coordinator of the Institute of Hawaiian Music, coordinates music studies at UH-MC, and teaches Hawaiian and world music, music theory and applied music. He holds a B.A. in Hawaiian Studies and M.A. in Hawaiian Language and Literature from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, a Graduate Certificate in Telecommunications and Information Resource Managmement (TIRM) from UH-Mānoa, and a Ph.D. in Music (ethnomusicology focus) from the University of Otago in Aotearoa (New Zealand). Additionally, he is a  voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (“Grammy Awards”) a former member of the Board of Governors of the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts (“Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards”), an active member of The Recording Academy, Society of Ethnomusicology, International Council of Traditional Music, the British Forum for Ethnomusicology - and - currently serves on the Board of Governors of PBS Hawai‘i.

Part of a series of full moon events geared to raise awareness of and access to Kaho‘olawe, Mahina‘ai nights offer a guided tour of the KIRC's new walking trail on its 8-acre Kihei, Maui property, live Hawaiian music, food vendors, an opportunity to talk story with experts in Kaho‘olawe history, restoration and culture and more. Through this program, we have met hundreds of individuals that may not be able to commit to the physical, time or financial commitments incurred by an on-island volunteer work trip, but are eager to be involved with Kaho'olawe. We see this as an important step in ensuring that the people of Hawai'i have access to Kaho'olawe, and in involving the broader community in developing the forthcoming Kaho'olawe Education and Operations Center.

Join us!
Thursday, November 19, 2015
5:30 - 7:30 PM | FREE
RSVP's Requested here or at 808.243.5020 

NOTES: Park at the Kihei Boat Ramp and follow signs for the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) - just a short walk to the boat house site (2780 South Kihei Road). Flash lights and closed-toe footwear are strongly recommended as you will be walking on a mulch-lined path amongst kiawe. Because there are no ATM's on site, please bring cash or checks if you plan to purchase food, beverages or to make a contribution to the Kaho'olawe Rehabilitation Trust Fund.


This program is made possible by a grant through the Maui County Product Enrichment Program (CPEP). Visit http://kahoolawe.hawaii.gov/home.php for more.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Clearing the Air: FAQ about the KIRC

Who is responsible for the management of the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve?
The Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) was established in 1993 by the Hawai‘i State Legislature to manage the Reserve. Composed of seven commission members, the KIRC relies on an exemplary staff with expertise in Native Hawaiian culture, ocean management, environmental restoration, planning, policy development, education and ordnance safety to fulfill this responsibility. 

KIRC staff

What is being done to restore the Reserve?
The KIRC has active grant projects on land and sea, including re-vegetation, erosion control, data collection & analysis, monitoring, removal of invasive species, irrigation development and more. We continually appeal to the State for funding to sustain and develop these projects, and have just begun to see success at the Legislature.

Ocean staff & volunteers conduct native fish surveys
How can I access Kaho‘olawe?
The KIRC leads limited volunteer work accesses to Kaho‘olawe in order to help fulfill its mission. Because access to the Reserve (the island and the 2 miles of ocean surrounding it) is largely restricted due to both the continued danger of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and to the financial demands associated with transportation, lodging, staff and safety, it is permitted only with authorization of the KIRC for specific restoration, education, and cultural purposes. A limited number of volunteer groups are escorted to island each year in order to collaborate on cultural and restoration projects with the KIRC and/ or accesses led by the Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana (PKO). You can add your name (or your entire group) to the KIRC's wait list here

Volunteers learn about key preservation & restoration techniques on Kaho'olawe

Is Kaho‘olawe safe?
Only escorted access that is approved and authorized by the KIRC is safe. Unexploded ordnance (UXO) hazards remain throughout the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve, even in the Navy-cleared areas, as well as in the uncleared areas and surrounding waters. Due to this and other hazards, including rough terrain and harsh environmental elements, no unauthorized persons are allowed into the Reserve and protective measures have been adopted to maximize safety for those persons with permission to access the Reserve. An Access and Risk Management Plan was developed specifically for this purpose.

UXO (unexploded ordnance) | Photo: 2015

How does the KIRC care for Kaho‘olawe’s cultural resources?
The KIRC works closely with the State Historic Preservation Division to ensure cultural resources are protected in accordance with Federal and State laws. Cultural protocols are carefully followed and cultural practitioners routinely participate in planning and conducting cultural activities. Restoration work is continuously carried out in archaeological and cultural sites throughout the island.

Cultural integration is a focus within all restoration efforts

Is fishing or boating allowed in the Reserve?
Trolling is permitted on two scheduled weekends each month in waters deeper than 30 fathoms (180 feet). No other fishing, ocean recreation or activities are allowed within the Reserve. Bottom fishing or use of anchors is prohibited due to the hazard of unexploded ordnance and risk of damage to coral and other areas of the marine ecosystem. Click to download a Trolling Right of Entry Registration Packet.

Catch reports are one tool that helps us to protect the Reserve for future generations

Are there special rules that apply?
Yes. Hawai‘i administrative rules Chapter 13-261 are specifically applicable to the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve. The Reserve is divided into two zones: A and B. Zone A includes all the submerged lands and waters between Kaho‘olawe’s shoreline and the waters under 30 fathoms. Unauthorized entry into Zone A is prohibited at all times. Zone B includes all waters and submerged lands between a depth of 180 feet and two nautical miles from the shoreline of the island. Unauthorized entry into Zone B is prohibited at all times, except for trolling on the days stipulated at kahoolawe.hawaii.gov/announce. Trollers must remain underway at all times while in Zone B. 

Who enforces the rules?
The rules governing use of the submerged lands and waters within two nautical miles of the shoreline of Kaho‘olawe are enforced by the State of Hawai‘i, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), the KIRC and the U.S. Coast Guard. Any person violating these rules is guilty of a petty misdemeanor and shall be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned up to 30 days. The KIRC may also assess administrative fines of up to $10,000 per offense. 

What is planned for Kaho‘olawe?
Current initiatives include:
  • Assessing and stabilizing cultural sites, and providing for appropriate access and cultural practices.
  • Systematically restoring the native environment.
  • Developing a significant volunteer base for the purposes of cultural and natural resource restoration.
  • Installing and maintaining appropriate and sustainable infrastructure, including on-island improvements.
  • Improving and establishing new energy, communications and water resources, as well as a Kihei information center.
  • Developing an enforcement network spanning the community and government to protect Kaho‘olawe and its waters from illegal, inappropriate and unsafe uses.
  • Maintaining a significant on-island presence for the purposes of managing and protecting the Reserve.
  • Creating and distributing educational programs and materials to further the public’s understanding of the cultural, historical and spiritual significance of Kaho‘olawe.

Can someone from the KIRC come to my school or organization to talk about Kaho‘olawe?
Yes, the KIRC provides speakers and materials to educate students and community groups about Kaho‘olawe. Please call the KIRC office at (808) 243-5020 for more information. 

How can I help Kaho‘olawe?
Simply by sharing our resources, volunteering or donating, you can make a huge impact to our efforts on Kaho‘olawe.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Kevin Gavagan

Kukui, Terri & Kevin Gavagan on Kahoʻolawe
Kevin Gavagan can’t sit still. A runner, bicyclist, surfer and basically every-other-endurance-sport-devotee, he is unwavering in his generosity, energy and service to Kahoʻolawe.

Growing up on a farm in Kula, Maui, he went on to study horticulture at UH Manoa before launching a career in landscape management with Starwood, Marriott, and, beginning in 2001, Four Seasons Resort Maui.

For years, Kevin has offered himself in any capacity to help Kahoʻolawe. From supporting his wife, Terri (KIRC Commission Coordinator), with art & artifacts, to performing with his daughter, Kukui, at Mahinaʻai Nights, to putting in some major sweat equity at the Kihei Boat House site, Kevin consistently brings humor, grace and spirit to the job site.

Why did you initially volunteer for the KIRC?
In celebration of its 50th anniversary, my company (Four Seasons Resort Maui) made a commitment to plant ten million trees around the world; our portion being 10,000. My staff identified Kahoʻolawe as a perfect partner and off I went. I felt like the KIRC’s mission was a great thing to be a part of and that our donation of plants, time and energy could make a real contribution. And of course, the obvious fact that we serve the same moku: Honuaʻula.

Why do you continue to volunteer?
Because I respect that island, I respect it’s potential, and I hope - just like everyone else - for its best outcomes.

Why is it important to volunteer for this cause?
Anywhere you go  in Hawaiʻi, there is some adulteration of the culture and of the land. And yes, Kahoʻolawe has a history of destruction through goats and bombs, but more than anywhere else in the State it is untouched. It’s the real deal. I haven’t been to another place where you can physically see the remnants of kūpuna making tools. It makes you feel closer to your kūpuna when you are near that kind of place that is a sanctuary, a wahi pana, to see what it looks like if we leave it alone. Just watch how nature recovers, how the reef recovers, how much vitality there is in the water and how much vitality there might be on land.

What has been one of your favorite Kahoʻolawe memories?
One night I had asked Lopaka if we could go up to Moaʻulaiki at 0 dark 30 to see the stars, and he obliged us — that was very memorable. I have never seen the pattern of the stars progress across the sky; a pattern talked about, sung about in songs, poetry and oli, but I never really could understand, appreciate or see it until I went to Kahoʻolawe. This was the first time I had seen this characteristic in nature: the zenith of the sun that spirals up into the sky - a piko of where it will rise - and the constellations that we had seen the night before. In the morning we saw where they had moved to. They talk about the Southern Cross spinning. Hoku paʻa does not spin, but the stars around it spiral around Nahiku and Pleiades. It was a very profound moment.

Anything else you would like to share?
I have always said to people who tell moʻolelo (stories) of Honuaʻula that it is important to connect us to our kūpuna;  to keep their wisdom in our lives. Those stories of the area are pertinent. I have always considered myself a student of that moku. I endeavor to learn more. The more I learn, the more I feel an affinity to that place. A sense of place is important. Kahoʻolawe has become integral to that energy there. I find myself feeling offended when I hear of Wailea referred to as the Gold Coast - it’s a trite, insensitive phrase. If people knew the history of that moku they would regard that place with more respect and more aloha.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

KIRC Membership Program: Exhibit Your Support

Download HERE

In order to help subsidize our public programs, Hawaiʻi State legislators have challenged the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) to exhibit community support of our work.

By demonstrating that our community values the historical, cultural, ecological and community building resources shared through the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve, we aim to boost the State’s potential financial investment in our continued operations. Please help by joining as a member today.

If you have been impacted by Kahoʻolawe — as a volunteer, friend, teacher, student, researcher or otherwise interested community or family member, we hope that you will join in our campaign to Aloha Kahoʻolawe. With your support, we will see the continuation of Kahoʻolawe’s restoration, protection, preservation and access for generations to come.

Please submit this completed form and send with your cash or check to the address listed, or call us at (808) 243-5886 for assistance. Want to do this online? Sure! Click here.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Announcing Our First Mahinaʻai Night

The Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) will be presenting its (first) Mahinaʻai Night on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at its Kihei boat house property; an 8-acre parcel designated to them in 2002 as the future site of a Kahoʻolawe learning center.

The first in a series of full moon events geared to raise awareness of and access to Kahoʻolawe, the event offers a guided tour of our new walking trail, live music by UH Maui College's Institute of Hawaiian Music, food vendors, an opportunity to talk story with experts in Kahoʻolawe history, restoration and culture and the unveiling of a 40-foot mural; a collaboration between Kihei Charter School and Maui artist Valentin Miro-Quesada. This program is made possible by a new grant made through the Maui County Product Enrichment Program (CPEP).

Our Kihei site is the first point of contact for all community volunteers accessing Kahoʻolawe, as it is where our vessel - the ʻOhua, the primary means of Kahoʻolawe transport - is housed. Cultivating the area responds to a strong demand for information and shared experiences for those that cannot commit to the 4-day volunteer restoration access trips on-island. We see this as an important step in strengthening understanding of and connection to Kahoʻolawe for all residents and visitors.

With grant support through the Atherton Family Foundation, Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority and Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, hundreds of Maui residents and visitors have volunteered their time during monthly Kākoʻo iā Kahoʻolawe work days to create the Kahoʻolawe educational walking trail, a native plant nursery that will propagate plants for both the Kihei site and for Kahoʻolawe and a traditional hale for Kahoʻolawe education and outreach activities - all of which will be unveiled at the Mahinaʻai Night event. Upon hearing about these opportunities to support Kahoʻolawe projects right here on Maui, independent groups such as Haleakalā National Park's Pōhai Maile High School Internship Program, the Kamehameha Schools Ipukukui program and the staff of Four Seasons Resort Maui have scheduled additional work days at the site - a testament to the value of sharing the Kahoʻolawe experience with the larger community.

A standout amongst these groups is the 7th & 8th grade classes of Kihei Charter School, who have adopted the Mālama Kahoʻolawe curriculum, developed by the Pacific American Foundation in partnership with the Protect Kahoʻolawe Ohana, the Polynesian Voyaging Society, and the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission, and have spent 2 mornings each week over the last year applying their lessons at the KIRC's Kihei site.

"For the seventh and eighth graders at Kihei Charter School, this is an opportunity to work with real scientists, historians, and preservationists in the field, getting their hands dirty, and making meaningful connections between the things they learn in class and the world around them," stated former director Jen Fordyce, "For some of our kids, it is the best part of coming to school (and the kind of experience that will hopefully keep them from dropping out in the future).  I have seen boys who are completely unable to focus and keep their hands to themselves in class proudly carrying the heaviest branches and digging the biggest holes to make a contribution to this project.  They give tours of the site as if it were their own home."

Mahina`ai Night: Saturday, May 9, 2015 (6 - 8 PM) / Free & open to the public / Park at the Kihei Boat Ramp and follow signs for The Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) to their boat house site (2780 South Kihei Road). RSVP's are requested, but not required at facebook.com/KircMaui/events or administrator@kahoolawe.hawaii.gov.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Volunteers gather in front of the ‘Ōhua, just outside the KIRC's Kihei Boat House
 Developed through a 2015 grant partnership with the County of Maui Product Enrichment Program (CPEP), new opportunities are available at our Kihei, Maui Boat House property — the future site of the Kaho‘olawe Education and Operations Center — to Hō‘ola iā (revitalize) Kaho‘olawe! Pick a date and email kmchugh@kirc.hawaii.gov to confirm your participation.

School field trips to volunteer for the KIRC help bring together teachers, students, parents and others for community service and cultural learning opportunities.
Kāko‘o iā Kaho‘olawe Work Days
Mar 28, Apr 25, May 23, Jun 27, Jul 25, Aug 22, Sep 26, Oct 24, Nov 28, Dec 19, 2015
Make an active contribution to the restoration of Kaho‘olawe by working on the walking trail and native plant nursery to propagate plants for Kaho‘olawe. Complimentary lunch is included for volunteers as program experts share knowledge of Kaho‘olawe restoration techniques and Hawaiian history. (8 AM - 12 PM)

Mahina‘ai Nights serve as an opportunity to engage our community in Kaho‘olawe activities, such as this ceremony during Makahiki season.

Mahina‘ai Nights
May 3, Jun 2, Jul 31, Aug 29, Sep 27, Oct 27, Nov 25, Dec 19, 2015
Join a torch lit guided tour of our walking trail while learning about Kaho‘olawe. Then, gather in the KIRC’s Kalamalama traditional hale, where historical artifacts from Kaho‘olawe will be on display, to enjoy live entertainment provided by University of Hawai‘i Maui College’s Institute of Hawaiian Music. Vendors will be on site to provide non-alcoholic beverages and appetizers for purchase. (6 - 8 PM)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Q & A with Hui Kāpehe program intern Boysie "Boy-Z" Burdett

Selected as one of seven national grant program recipients through the Native Hawaiian Career and Technical Education Program (NHCTEP), in partnership with Alu Like Inc, the KIRC's Hui Kāpehe college internship program offers work-related experience, community service learning, and job shadowing opportunities related to career and technical education (CTE) focusing on sustainability and Hawaiian culture. Through the program, students of Native Hawaiian descent participate in intensive internships in each of the KIRC's core program areas: Operations, Ocean, Restoration, Culture and Administration.

In preparation for our most recent newsletter, we interviewed 25 Kāpehe participants. Here, Boysie "Boy-Z" Burdett shares his story.

Out of 20 Kāpehe that accessed the island this past winter break, I might appear to be one of the older ones of the group because of my age. But from a college standpoint, I am actually the youngest one being that I am in my first semester in school with the goal of accomplishing a degree in Hawaiian Studies. 

Seven years ago, the organization that I was working for suggested that I go to Master Gardener’s School to get certified in Native Gardening. We had a 2.5 acre native garden on the grounds of the Waimanalo Health Center enveloped with trees such as Kukui Nut, Milo and Kou.Ti-leaf plants draped the subterranean shrubs and Kupukupu and Lawae Ferns blanketed the grounds. This cooled down the temperature and controlled erosion tremendously. We also had a vegetable garden and other medicinal plants used for dietary practices. However, my parents along with my wife’s aging parents started to get sick and old and needed a lot of attention. I was so sad to walk away from such a grand privilege but family comes first. On top of that, we just adopted four kids from Foster Parent’s Hawaii who also needed my care. So, I had to step down and step aside in my pursuits of Native Gardening. 

Sixty days prior to the trip (to Kaho`olawe), my wife of 40 years fell asleep and didn’t wake up. She was my biggest supporter and advocate of me being a native gardener and a good father in raising our children because I raised our children in gardens. And to me, gardens are way better than a farm because it doesn’t only provide food, but provides everything else you need that are essential. So I didn’t think of gardening for a long time until this privilege came along.  It is as if my wife is guiding me and saying to me “keep gardening” and “do your gardening in a bigger garden this time – KAHO`OLAWE!” 
What are you doing to help Kaho`olawe?
I was so grateful for the privilege of going to Kaho`olawe that that event still ignites a fire within me. Since returning from the island, it has changed and exhilarated my life tremendously. How? After returning, I couldn’t stop talking, and sharing experiences of that honored privilege. I must’ve had hundreds of hours of conversational speaking with others about the trip because everybody asked: “How was your trip?”, so I tell them and show them my pictures that I proudly collected and documented about our journeys. And you would be proud to know that my fellow interns embraced that same sentiments as well, for a number of them has already given power-point presentations with pictures about our visit to the Reserve. And with great enthusiasm, we encourage others to get involved on our next trip if possible.

Personally, I couldn’t help but get in the hang of sharing weekly pictures and text messages of our trip through my smartphone with groups of fellow students that went with us so this reminds them what we need to do and about the time we spent on Kaho`olawe. The pictures really tell the story.  And when you’re in the picture, it really proves it. Prior to the trip, I did not know how to use a cell phone. My wife used to be my secretary for a long time and now that I’ve learned how to use it, I feel the needed privilege to share.

How did you view Kaho`olawe prior to volunteering on-island?
Prior to visiting, I always thought that was a place for the elite group of Hawaiian people, and never felt that it would have been accessible for someone like us (students). It changed my life for the good and brought my natural creative inclinations out of me by allowing me to use a gift that was given me at birth; that is to live and to work on natural lands and to speak about it by living and practicing nativities. It also helps me to live up to my middle name, “ma pa`a e kaleo” which is also the last line of the entrance oli that is chanted prior to entering Kaho`olawe.

How did that perspective change upon accessing the Reserve? How did it affect you?
After accessing the Reserve, it changed my perspective each passing day. After touching base and seeing the island in person, you develop more feelings about it that help you to have empathy for the `aina. After letting Kaho`olawe talk to you personally, it moves one to take action and do something about being in collective association with other interns with similar interests about the island. This also helps one to react with contributions such as love by giving voluntarily for the recovery efforts. However, it will take more than love. It will also take time and more visits by people like us in order for it to progress.

Why should others get involved with this cause/ What's so important about preserving this place for current and future generations of Hawaii residents?
Others should get involved because it was humans who desecrated this beautiful place so it will also take humans, modern technology and more diligence in applying these methods and many hands to put it back together and making it even better than what it was, because of the collective efforts.
It is important because it is our heritage as native Hawaiian people. There is a lot of Hawaiian heritage that is already lost and forgotten. Why should we let even this beautiful island be lost? Would one put his grandmother out on the streets and allow her to get lost?  Would one stop getting food for his family to get and allow them to get lost also? Same as Kaho`olawe…It is the last place where native people can practice their culture and be Hawaiian and educate the world while doing it.

10 years from now, how would you like to see Kaho`olawe function?
10 years from now, I see Kaho`olawe as the biggest classroom (halau) in the state. I also see it as a modern day heiau built with many hands to include many others.  I also see it as the oldest rain forest that needs to be redeveloped out on Kanaloa.

Do you see this internship impacting your future in any way? If so, how?
As a student, collectively with colleagues, we may contribute to the accuracy of knowledge and mo`olelo as well as traditions to putting it back, almost like how it was. As researchers, we should continue because this process not only validates but vindicates the native people of the land. It’s proof of the people who once lived here and call this place home. For culture, who do you think got the island back to the people in the first place?  Wasn’t it P.K.O who practiced their culture and got the balls rolling?  Why not all of us work together in putting it back to a beautiful land. Hell yea, I am fully involved and immersed now. I planted a grove of 20 Hau saplings and nearly 20 saplings of Milo and want to go back and see their progress. Many things that I am learning in class presently can contribute to progress too. I am currently trying to encourage native plants to grow in inhospitable areas like the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve.

Click on the April 2015 issue of Ko Hema Lamalama at http://kahoolawe.hawaii.gov/newsletter.shtml and scroll to page 8 for snapshots of other Kāpehe experiences. Apply today at http://kahoolawe.hawaii.gov/opportunities.shtml.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Volunteer Spotlight: Vernon Wong

To say the least, Vernon Wong is a dedicated KIRC volunteer. He donates his own time on Kaho‘olawe while also educating, organizing and encouraging his friends and colleagues to support the KIRC’s efforts. After a volunteer access on Kaho‘olawe with the Pacific Century Fellows program, he became a great advocate for us by organizing rotary groups and leading teams of colleagues and clients from First Hawaiian Bank’s Wealth Management Group. Vernon’s infectious enthusiasm has opened the door for many new members of our community to support the work and many challenges that come with restoring Kaho‘olawe.

Why did you initially volunteer for the KIRC?
I was able to make my first trip to Kaho‘olawe in 2006 with a group from the Nature Conservancy who invited some of us who went through the Pacific Century Fellows program. I enjoy everything about our native Hawaiian culture and I had always wanted to visit Kaho’olawe to learn more about this special, uninhabited place.

Why do you continue to volunteer?
I continue to volunteer because Kaho‘olawe is so special and it needs our care, love and support. The island is very spiritually and culturally significant. It is so sad and disheartening that it had to go through so much pain and neglect. Once you have experienced the spirit of the island, you feel a sense of responsibility to help restore and malama the island.

Why is it important to volunteer for this cause?
I volunteer for this cause because Hawai‘i is my home. With the growing population and development throughout the state, it is important to keep Kaho‘olawe pure and simple. My wife and I are both 4th generation in Hawai‘i, our kids being 5th generation. We need to restore and preserve Kaho‘olawe for future generations to be able to come to a place that’s pure and undeveloped and learn about the history, culture and spirit.

What has been one of your favorite memories throughout this journey?
My favorite memories from my volunteer trips have revolved around the spiritual experience and building a relationship with my co-volunteers and the island. So many chicken skin experiences shared with family and good friends. I always enjoy the landing in Honokanai‘a Bay. The boats’ engines shut down and as we drift in, we ask for permission to enter with the Oli Kahea and receive a chant back from those on shore. Everything else is silent except for the winds and the ocean. Chicken skin. Walking up Moa‘ula Iki in silence, with the mist, taking in the entire island and feeling the wind and spirit. Chicken skin.

Is there a message that you would like to share with the public regarding Kaho‘olawe?
My message is to keep the funding going for restoration and the volunteer programs. Kaho‘olawe is such an important island for education and for preserving our native culture. We need to take responsibility to preserve this island for future generations. The Legislature and federal government need to understand the responsibility and importance of keeping these programs going. My volunteer trips and experiences on Kaho‘olawe have helped me to change my perspectives and priorities and I am better off for it.