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.

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