search logo

Keakealani Cashman chats with her fellow classmates in Honors Papa ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi.

A healing journey: Lahaina haumāna finds solace while spearheading mental health project rooted in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi

Mar. 11, 2024

Kamehameha Schools Maui senior Keakealani Cashman is one of many in the Lahaina community who tragically lost her family home in the Maui fires. Through an Honors Papa ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, she has embarked on an ambitious project ma ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi that focuses on supporting the mental health of fellow haumāna throughout the grieving process. While developing Ka Mauli Ola, Cashman has also found solace and support that has helped in her own healing journey.

Scared and overwhelmed, four generations of Keakealani’s ‘ohana packed up whatever they could including the family pet turtles, dogs and rabbits to flee the fires that ravaged Lahaina on Aug. 8th. “We spent that night, twenty of us and ten cars, in the Kahana McDonald’s parking lot. It was a very scary and overwhelming experience, everything happened so quickly,” Cashman said. “I woke up that morning expecting to go to school but ended up losing everything, not knowing what would happen tomorrow.”

Instead of being excited for her senior year, she sadly learned that their home was lost.

“That whole experience really changed my life.”

In the weeks and months after the fires, Cashman received kōkua from an array of KS Maui staff, including behavior health specialist Kōnane de la Nux who created a puʻuhonua where she and other impacted students could share their struggles and process their grief. “The loss of community, the loss of ‘āina and the loss of connection is visible but it’s the perceived loss of identity that befalls them,” de la Nux said. They ask, “Without that, who am I?” With her journey of healing just beginning, Cashman decided she wanted to help others and the Ka Mauli Ola project was born. 

The senior has lined up an impressive hui of ʻŌiwi mental health experts who are fluent in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.  

Ka Mauli Ola will feature video interviews with Mauli Ola subject matter experts like clinical psychologist Aukahi Austin Seabury, Ph.D. and traditional practitioners nā kumu Keola Kawaiʻulaʻiliahi Chan and Haku Hoʻoponopono Momilani Awo. The discussions will be recorded and available online. Cashman envisions this as a beneficial and long-term sustainable resource for ‘ōpio including Ke Kula Kaiapuni ma Lahaina.

Cashman’s passion for mental health took root during the pandemic through a campus club that emphasized self-care and mental well-being. “During COVID, I was going through these feelings of not only transitioning from middle school to high school but transitioning from being around people to just being by myself.” 

While developing Ka Mauli Ola, Cashman admits self-doubt crept in yet again. What business did she have in helping others when she was immersed in grief herself? Would other haumāna truly benefit? She found reassurance during ʻike-filled pep talks with ‘ōlelo Hawaiʻi kumu Kalei Aarona-Lorenzo.

“I just needed that talk to hear that I need this – not just other people – I need this,” Cashman exclaimed. 

Through her research and interviews, Cashman found both comfort and growth. Some learning was culturally rooted like diving into her moʻokuʻauʻhau and familial ties to Lahaina. She also studied the art of being fully present and learned how cherishing memories of home and ‘āina can foster healing.  

“I want people to know that they are not alone. Their feelings are valid and there are others and resources out there that can help you. I hope this project will help others to focus on teen mental health and get teens to help each other,” she said. “I had to just humble myself to know that it’s ok to be sad or have those bad days or feeling like I can’t do it. It’s how you bounce back from that and that’s something this project has really taught me.”

maui campus,ks maui,hoʻōla maui

Kaipuolono Article, Regions, Maui, Moloka’i and Lana’i, Themes, Culture, Community, KS Announcements, Maui Newsroom, KS Maui Home, Newsroom, Maui, Alumni, Maui, Ho‘ōla Maui, Lahaina, Maui campus

Print with photos Print text only