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Nakua Konohia-Lind of Hāna, Maui, takes the helm of Hōkūle‘a during the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

Sand like an expertʻ: Hāna program empowers at-risk youth through hands-on learning

Jan. 17, 2018

Contributed by Ma Ka Hāna Ka ‘Ike

Through Kamehameha Schools community investment partner, Ma Ka Hana Ka ʻIke, Nakua Konohia-Lind learned wayfaring and navigation skills that made him the youngest person ever to take the helm of the Polynesian voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a.

Konohia-Lind honed his sailing skills by being a crew member on more than half the legs of Hōkūle‘a’s three-year Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

Ma Ka Hana Ka ʻIke (MKHKI) is an award-winning vocational training program for at-risk youth in Hāna, Maui.

With its Sustainable Building Program, Mahele Farm Program and Ku‘i ‘Ai Program, Ma Ka Hana Ka ʻIke teaches academic subjects through real-life, hands-on application. Its projects meet real school and community needs, so students’ education immediately serves those whose lives it touches.

The hands-on program taught 14-year-old Konohia-Lind valuable skills that he would take with him to Honolulu Community College. Now, at age 24, he says he wouldn’t be where he is today without knowing how to sand.

“The tools that I [earned] during my years with Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike I took to college … I was probably one of the better ones in [shop class] in college because I knew how to use all [the tools].  I became the ‘go-to-guy.’”

When master navigator Nainoa Thompson met Nakua at Honolulu Community College five years ago, Nakua was studying marine mechanics. Thompson had asked HCC’s boat maintenance class if anyone could sand the bottom of the canoe.

“I knew how to sand like an expert,” says Nakua. “So I was like, I’m down, let’s do it … Simple thing like know how to sand took me a long way.”

Nakua’s great-grandfather Sam Kalalau, Sr., sailed with Thompson on the Hōkūle‘a’s 1976 Tahiti voyage. Polynesian Voyaging Society founder Herb Kane once noted that Kalalau was revered among the crew for his deep knowledge of the sea and for his strength. Kalalau was both a leader and a teacher, but also willing to jump in with the crew to do whatever was needed. Nakua is following in his ancestor’s footsteps.

“All work ethic” is what Nakua says MKHKI taught him. “Whether working in the MKHKI program or working on the canoe, I just work hard … for the feeling, that I did something good for someone else besides myself. It’s not for me to work hard, it’s to represent my kūpuna [elders] and the people after me.

Nakua also hopes to someday start his own Ma Ka Hana Ka ‘Ike-style program—with canoes.

“Like what the program is all about, trying to get kids in the community to do something that also teaches them to go about in life, or school ... I want to make a program with the canoe, that gets kids off the streets and hopefully doing something good, for their tradition, for their culture … to ensure we have resources for our future generations.”

As a teenager in Hāna, Nakua Konohia-Lind credited Ma Ka Hana Ka ʻIke with giving him a foundation toward learning academic subjects and lifelong skills through real-life, hands-on learning.

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