To kick off the Ho‘oikaika Conference, Venus Rosete-Medeiros, KS regional director for Maui, Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i (at center, in black), acted in the play “Family Laundry,” which was originally produced by KS in 1993. Rosete-Medeiros played the role of 11 characters during the performance, which presented the idea that sharing family problems is an act of courage when it comes to alcohol and drug abuse, as well as other domestic and mental health issues.
With the goal of creating an “even playing field” for empathy toward and understanding of the complex issues affecting communities today, the recent Ho‘oikaika Conference brought together attendees from community-focused organizations dedicated to uplifting the lāhui.
Hundreds of participants from the State Department of Education, Kamehameha Schools and multiple groups geared toward improving the lives of those struggling in society gathered for the Ho‘oikaika Conference held October 10-11 at the KS Maui campus. The conference, which was held in advance of Safe Schools Week, featured an array of breakout sessions focused on issues affecting communities, and led to discussions about how to address the afflictions.
Venus Rosete-Medeiros, KS regional director for Maui, Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i, and her team organized and facilitated the conference. She explains that the goal of the gathering was “To know how we can engage, knowledge is power; having that knowledge and being able to instill those aspects in your work.”
“This whole partnership is about working together, ho‘oikaika,” adds Rosete-Medeiros. “We recognize that everyone’s work is important, and bringing that work together and helping one another collectively, the impact can be so much greater. Hawaiian values have been embedded in our curriculum along with place-based learning. We all share the same values – the only difference is the way we prioritize and look at those values.”
The Ho‘oikaika (to make strong) Partnership was formed 11 years ago to strengthen the social service organizations serving communities across Maui. And, while specific efforts on Maui were highlighted, participants from across the state attended the conference to gain insight on ways to address issues affecting society, regardless of location.
“This is not only happening to Native Hawaiians, it’s happening around the world,” says Dr. Jamee Miller, KS regional director for Ko‘olau and Waialua, and a licensed clinician with experience working with Native Hawaiian families and children. “As you start to learn about your history, our ancestral knowledge is awakened within us.”
Danny Goya, program director for Partners in Development Foundation, which works alongside KS as a community collaborator, presented on trauma-informed training and shared about adverse childhood experiences. He noted that studies have shown these negative, traumatic experiences affect children both mentally and physically.
Stacy Moniz from The Maui Farm shared about her program providing transitional housing for survivors of domestic violence and offering pathways to recovery.
“We connect women and children with the land, plant a seed and see what happens,” says Moniz. “We do a lot of Hawaiian culture-based activities. If we aim to reach the Hawaiian women, then we will end up catching everybody in the community who may not be speaking up, but still need help.
“Like all families, our issues are very complex, and that makes our work more challenging. Here we are, and this is how we come together as a community and address these multi-faceted problems.”
Throughout the conference, presenters and collaborators stressed the importance of partnership throughout the community-building process.
“Being able to partner and collaborate is so powerful,” says Rosete-Medeiros while addressing conferencegoers before they headed to various breakout sessions. “Our wish and hope is that you’ll be able to solve some of the problems you’re facing through the work you’re doing through some of the perspectives you see here.”
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