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In response to the need for certified kūpuna caregivers in East Maui, the KS Maui, Molokaʻi, and Lānaʻi Community Strategies team and community partners created the first Certified Nursing Assistant Training and Certification Program in Hāna. Participants included: (l-r): Clinical Instructor Robin Ferrier, R.N., Sharae Hanchett, Chevelle Oliveira, Lauaʻe Lind, Shannon Lind, Natalie Kalama, Michelle Horen, Crystal Pulama Helekahi, Kali Lind, Sheriah Day, Kamaile Kaiwi and Shaelyn Day.

KS partnership creates new kūpuna caregivers in rural East Maui

Feb. 22, 2021

Concerns about the COVID-19 threat led to a new opportunity for students seeking training to care for kūpuna in East Maui. As the number of new coronavirus cases in Hawaiʻi started rising last spring, community stakeholders began meeting virtually to discuss ways to assist elderly residents in the remote region.

In response to the need for certified kūpuna caregivers, the Kamehameha Schools Maui, Molokaʻi, and Lānaʻi Community Strategies team brought together several partners to provide the first Certified Nursing Assistant Training and Certification Program in Hāna. Eleven students enrolled in the course last September and finished their training in December. This month, they’re taking the exam for official certification from the state.

“It’s really beautiful to see the benefits – the kūpuna will benefit, the families will benefit, the caregivers have this respite now,” said Keala Kaʻōpūiki-Santos, KS Community Strategies project manager for Maui, Moloka‘i and Lana‘i. “You’re also providing education and employment opportunities for those that are interested.”

The collaboration included University of Hawaiʻi Maui College which supplied instructors, as well as Hui No Ke Ola Pono which supplied funding that allowed the program to be free for participants.

“It was a pretty daunting task because we had a short timeline, but it’s just really rewarding to see all the partners come together and really help to make it come to fruition for the students,” said Marisa Watanabe, Kealahoʻimai project director for Hui No Ke Ola Pono.

Hāna Health, Hōlani Hāna, Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike, Hale Hulu Mamo, and Hoʻokele Caregivers Maui offered additional coordination, supplies, and internship and employment opportunities.

One of the students, Natalie Kalama, was already working for Hoʻokele Caregivers. She decided to participate in the program in order to be able to provide a higher level of care.

“I’m so thankful to all of these organizations for coming together to give us knowledge and education,” said the Kaupō resident. “I want to concentrate on this side of the island because I’m from here and that’s why I want to give back to the community. I know a lot of people that need help.”

The partners continue to meet to explore employment opportunities for the East Maui CNA graduates and help identify subsidies to cover services for kūpuna in need of care.

“As Kamehameha Schools focuses on creating healthy and nurturing learning environments that foster thriving and successful ‘ōiwi leaders, we understand that forming strategic partnerships is crucial,” said Venus Rosete-Medeiros KSK’81, KS Community Strategies regional director for Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi.


Program participant Natalie Kalama, who currently works for Hoʻokele Caregivers Maui, brushes the hair of a client in Kaupō.

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