From left: Kaleo Wong (Hikaʻalani), Megan Cabral (Harold K.L. Castle Foundation), Jamee Miller (KS CE&R Koʻolau Region), Georgi DeCosta (Harold K.L. Castle Foundation), Kīhei Nahale-a (KEY Project), and Brandt Chillingworth (Hauʻoli Mau Loa).
Koʻolau ʻĀina Aloha (KAA) – a hui of 24 Windward O‘ahu non-profits – has secured the support of funders including Kamehameha Schools to cultivate ‘āina-based education programs for area haumāna and the community. KAA also helps build community capacity within the region by promoting growth and mutual support among its members.
The catalyst for KAA was some kūkākūkā among representatives from Paepae O Heʻeia, Papahana Kuaola and Kakoʻo ʻŌiwi. The group looped in leaders from the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation to discuss the needs of the region’s community organizations.
Over the past year, more organizations and funders have embraced the Hawaiian value of aloha ‘āina, sowing the seeds for Koʻolau ʻĀina Aloha. Today, KAA includes 16 nonprofits, four public charter schools, two public high schools and two UH System sites, and has more than 300 active members.
Members say that the collaboration is a blessing as well as a challenge.
“Working together is easier said than done,” said KAA member Kīhei Nahale-a, program director for the Kualoa-He‘eia Ecumenical Youth (KEY) Project. “How do we sustain this ahupuaʻa together? If one goes down, we all go down.”
Nurturing the value of aloha ‘āina in the region begins with strengthening the Ko‘olau community across all of its sectors. To that end, the organization offers community workshops focused on human resources, finance, sustainability, leadership, succession planning, and increasing organizational capacity.
“Kamehameha Schools has changed the way we work with community,” said Jamee Miller, KS Community Engagement and Resources Ko‘olau regional director. “We’ve transitioned into being a part of the conversation. Timing and having the right people to champion this effort have been instrumental in its success.”
What lessons have KAA members learned so far? In a recent presentation to KS employees, community organization reps shared that there is value in spending time talking and learning about one another, and that taking part in training sessions together helps dispel preconceived notions they have and enhance connections among members.
“It all comes down to relationships, and to restore ʻāina we need to restore people,” said Kaleo Wong, program director for Hikaʻalani – an organization dedicated to restoring ‘āina and identity in Kailua. “My ʻohana is from Kailua and I haven't felt connected until I started working with these folks.”
In addition to the Castle Foundation and Kamehameha Schools, KAA funders include the Consuelo Foundation, Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, The Learning Coalition, Liliʻuokalani Trust, and Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation.
“We received a lot of feedback to determine what would be most valuable for the community,” said Brant Chillingworth, senior program officer for the Hauʻoli Mau Loa Foundation. “So how do we provide something like a Koʻolau Aloha ʻĀina for other communities who want something like this?”