Community

KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall



KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall

“KĀKOU” means “all of us.” But it doesn’t mean we all agree.

 

When we can speak to each other honestly and listen earnestly… When we recognize that we are all in this together… When we are engaged in working toward a common goal, that is “kākou.”

 

PBS Hawai‘i hosts a periodic series of live town hall events called KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall. You can email us with your thoughts in advance or during the live conversation at kakou@pbshawaii.org, or post on Twitter using the #pbskakou hashtag. The town hall will also be live streamed on pbshawaii.org and on Facebook Live, where you can also join the conversation.

 

 

Join The Conversation Online!
#PBSKakou

KĀKOU: HAWAI‘I'S TOWN HALL – Join the Conversation

 

Join the online conversation about KĀKOU by using the #PBSKakou hashtag on Twitter. See what your community has said so far!

 




INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I
Prison Reform

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I: Prison Reform

 

At the estimated cost of $525 million, the Governor wants to build a new State jail in Hālawa to replace the outdated and overcrowded O‘ahu Community Correctional Center in Kalihi. A lawmaker has a different, lower-cost replacement idea for OCCC: Buy the underutilized federal detention center near the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport and house inmates there. Meanwhile, a task force says the state should rethink its strategy from locking up people to rehabilitation. What do you think? Join the conversation on Prison Reform on INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I. You can phone in, or leave us a comment on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Phone Lines:
462-5000 on Oahu or 800-238-4847 on the Neighbor Islands.

 

Email:
insights@pbshawaii.org

 

Facebook:
Visit the PBS Hawai‘i Facebook page.

 

Twitter:
Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Community Builders

LONG STORY SHORT: Community Builders

 

Kukui and Gary Maunakea-Forth of O‘ahu, Stacy Sproat-Beck of Kaua‘i and Richard Ha of Hawai‘i Island have built ‘āina-based enterprises focused on building better communities. Hear how these visionaries behind MA‘O Organic Farms, Waipā Foundation and the former Hamakua Springs Country Farms have put their values to work for the greater good.

 

Program

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Dec. 23, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Community Builders Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Richard Ha

We always plan five, ten years out.  We’re always looking for where we need to be in the future.  And we already know that this is happening, it’s gonna get worse, so we’re already moving in that direction.

 

Stacy Sproat-Beck

I remember asking that question when I was in college.  You know; what about a nonprofit?  Because I knew it was there, and it was really an amazing opportunity, you know, to be able to grow this entity that is really for the community, and to take care of the land, and to teach people.

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

That’s what I love most about what we do, is that we’re providing this way for young people at an early age to build equity. You know, and it’s not just financial equity, but it’s also equity in terms of the relationships that we’re creating with other people in our community, and with the land.

 

Every entrepreneur seeks professional success.  An uncommon few also aim to build a better community.  Coming up on Long Story Short, our conversations with four individuals who are among a rare breed of business and community leaders.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou.  I’m Leslie Wilcox.  On this edition of Long Story Short, community builders.  It takes a remarkable type of person to look beyond their own family, business, and circumstances, maybe beyond their own lifetime, and work to make life better for the broader community over the long haul. To illustrate the impact these individuals can have, we revisit four entrepreneurs running distinctive businesses and nonprofits on three different islands.  We think it’s worth another look at what these innovators have accomplished, putting their vision and values to work, and how they empower people in their communities.

 

First up, Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth.  Though they come from different places—New Zealand and Nānākuli, this married couple came together through shared concerns about social conditions on the Wai‘anae Coast of O‘ahu.  And when it came time to start their enterprise in 2001, making money was far from the top priority.  Now the largest organic farm on O‘ahu, the nonprofit MA‘O Organic Farms is providing much more than food.  It’s creating a future for young people in West O‘ahu, and educating leaders for the next generation.

 

Gary Maunakea-Forth

I think the first place it came down to was the fact that we weren’t growing our own food.  We definitely worried about the kids in our community.  But I think because we saw all this land that was being wrongly used, we just kept asking ourselves: Why aren’t we feeding ourselves? And then, we dug a little bit deeper, and one of our friends who’s a soil scientist said it turns out that the soil in Lualualei Valley is one of the most unique and nutrient rich soils in the world.  And we didn’t know that, and kids in our community weren’t taught that.  The connection to the land had been severed. And we still to this day, those kids that come up to the farm, they’ve never been up in the valleys.  And so, I think that’s where it started.  And then, you know, definitely as our kids started to get a little bit older and go through the same problems that other kids were going through, our connection to what kids in Waianae, what kids in rural Hawai‘i are going through started to just, you know, really sort of slap us in the face; you know, the idea that a good public education is very difficult to get in Hawai‘i.

 

We didn’t want to just grow food and eat it ourselves.  We wanted it to be highly marketable.  Because, you know, when we analyzed our community, the state of poverty was multigenerational.  And we thought that if we sell our own food for a premium price, that money wouldn’t go back to our community.  And so, we looked at the kind of social service kinds of things that we had been doing ourselves and that others were doing, and we wanted to add this what at the time was called community-based economic development.  But we wanted to add this economic development layer that now has become social enterprise.  And so, that’s where it started.

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

I wanted it to be this great education program, and I wanted, you know, this element of culture and, you know, this element of vocational skills being taught, and this element of community work being done.  And it just didn’t happen like that at all.  It was whatever, you know, resources and people that were sort of there at the time. And it started off as a ten-month-long experience; you know, farm work experience.

 

So, who were you first enrollees?

 

 

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

Multi people that we had talked to their parents at Tamura’s.  Or we saw down at the beach park and said: Hey, you know, we’re starting a program; would you guys like to, you know, send your daughter?  Oh, yeah; my daughter’s graduating, and she doesn’t really have plans; sure, we’ll sign her up.

 

Those people that were meant to be there, ended up there.  And, you know, all of us, you know, growing up on the Coast, the fact that there’s only eleven percent that will go to college; that’s a small number.  So, what about the other eighty-eight, ninety percent that aren’t going to college; where are those guys?  And, you know, we thought long and hard about who we wanted to have this opportunity, and to have this experience.  And it was really those that were going to become the leaders. So, this eighteen to twenty-four-year-old Wai‘anae or Nānākuli graduate that had a desire to do something different, and to connect with not only the culture, but with a future in the community.

 

Gary Maunakea-Forth

Almost every young person that has been in touch with MA‘O—and this is pretty much the condition of the Wai‘anae Coast, you know, the federal government calls them at-risk.  And if you look deep at the statistics, you’ll find that Waianae has twice the teen pregnancy rate, twice the substance abuse rate.  All of these indicators are terrible, twice as bad as anywhere else.  And so, most of the kids that come have issues at home, or in their own lives that they’ve got to deal with.  On top of that, you know, we’re told in this society that if you go and get a college education, you can get ahead in life, you know, you can get your American Dream. Most of the kids coming out of the public schools in the State of Hawai‘i and in Wai‘anae are what’s termed remedial. And so, they have to be highly motivated.

 

When we started MA‘O, we wanted to start it with an associate degree program.  That took us three or four years to gain momentum, because when we went to Leeward Community College initially, they were like: Well, let’s do a noncredit program. And so, we started with this ten-month-long program.  And now, the various programs we have through MA‘O are sort of designed to be like a movement, to have this environment of entrepreneurship, of I want to get ahead, I want to work hard, I want to give to my community.

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

Over time, you know, we nurture trust, and respect, and love.

 

Gary Maunakea-Forth

And when kids first come to the farm, they generally come because we’re gonna help them pay for college and give them a stipend. The farming, they could live without some of them.

 

So, in 2003, I think, was our first real official ten-person youth leadership training of these young people just straight out of college.  And one of them went through the whole ten-months, and during that ten months he turned eighteen, and he was all over the place.

 

He was just growing up.  And anyway, he stuck it out, and now, he’s still with us, and he’s twenty-five years old.  And he’s now the assistant farm manager.  His name is Manny.  He represents what we believe is the untapped potential of young men in Waianae.  He can run the farm himself.  I’ve seen him talk story with Alan Wong about food, talk story with Ed Kenney about food.  At one of the fundraisers, he was talking about the farm to Pierre Omidyar, who’s a billionaire.  He represents, I believe, what a young farmer in the State of Hawai‘i should be.  Not just a person who’s able to toil in the fields, but he can talk about the vegetables, he can cook the vegetables.

 

You know, we’ve tried to take the farming part of it, and make it sexy, and make it interesting.  And the best and easiest way to do that is to allow the young people to do, firstly, a bit of everything.

 

M-hm.

 

So, they get typecast weeding a lot.

 

But they also get to do all the other jobs. You know, packing vegetables to go to Town Restaurant, or to go to Whole Foods is one of those things where they start to see the pride in doing it.

 

And the connection.

 

And get connection; yeah.  And so, if they’re at KCC Farmers Market selling vegetables, that’s the ultimate job.  You know, we’re hoping now that the next step for us is that especially some of the young people who really all of a sudden like farming will be farmers, and will either farm larger spaces with us, or go off by themselves.

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

I think that’s what I love most about what we do, is that we’re providing this way for young people at an early age to build equity. You know, and it’s not just financial equity, but it’s also equity in terms of the relationships that we’re creating with other people in our community, and with the land that feeds them.

 

Since 2009 when this interview first aired, MAO Organic Farms has continued to do well.  In 2018, a record twenty-one students graduated from the program with high school and college degrees, including from a new four-year program in sustainable community food systems at UH West Oahu.  While we enjoy the vegetables, MAO is really growing the leaders of tomorrow.

 

Now, we head over to Kauai’s North Shore, where Stacy Sproat-Beck is pursuing some similar goals at the WaipāFoundation.  The Waipāeducational mission includes connecting people to the land, using natural resources responsibly, strengthening family, cultural, and community ties, and preserving a way of life.  In 2014, Stacy Sproat-Beck told us why she was a world away from the work her business school professors expected her to pursue.

 

You went to USC, a very fine business school.  What was the experience of going to college at USC like?  I mean, there are a lot of wealthy scions, you know, sons and daughters of magnates.

 

It was kind of a culture shock.  You know, not so much being in a city that size, or in a school that size, because you know, I’d lived here for six years in Honolulu, and gone to Kamehameha.  And this is a big city, too.  But definitely, USC was kind of a culture shock for me, and I didn’t fit in that well. And you know, I’d raise my hand and go: What about family business?  And they go: Oh, no, no, no; don’t talk about that.  You know, family business is really hard.  And I go: Oh, what about nonprofits? And they go: Nonprofits?  You know, maybe we’ll bring somebody in to talk about nonprofits, but nonprofits aren’t really where the money is.  And so, it was kind of a different thing for me. But I still feel like I gained a lot of knowledge and important skills from going there, definitely.  It was an amazing education.

 

When you came home, I think you were aware of what was going on, but weren’t there for a lot of the fireworks.  There was a lot of militance about the way land was going on the North Shore, the push for resort development, and the move away from a rural lifestyle.

 

On Kaua‘i?

 

M-hm.

 

Yeah.  It seems like that was happening.  Yeah; that was happening throughout our childhood and youth, and my parents were really active, and my family was really active and fighting development, and wanting to manage it, really, and not just let it get out of hand.

 

And in fact, they were fighting Kamehameha Schools, where you’d attended, owner of Waipa.

 

Yeah; in the early 80s then, yes, Kamehameha became one of the entities that wanted to develop their landholdings there on the North Shore.  They were in development mode, and so, their plans for Waipāand Lumahai were golf courses, resort communities. Back then, it was all about developing the land so they could make money to support the school at Kapālama and the Estate.  Eventually, after four years of activism and negotiation, and the default of the potential developer, they were able to obtain a lease from Kamehameha for the sixteen-hundred-acre ahupua‘a of Waipā, which is an intact watershed.  It’s amazing.

 

I moved home in ’92, and I really started helping at Waipāin ’94.  And it was really just difficult.  There were a lot of different challenges and issues.

 

And you were doing this as a volunteer?

 

Yeah.  Well, farming with my husband on the side, helping manage Waipāon a volunteer basis.  And then also, I think I was doing promotions for a boat company to actually make money to pay my bills.  When Kamehameha went through strategic planning in 2000-2001, they changed their whole viewpoint on land management and revenue-generating lands, versus lands for culture and education.  And also, kind of right around that same time, all of these other difficulties that we had just sort of went away.

 

What do you do on the sixteen-hundred-acre property?

 

My dad guys envisioned that the original founders, it was to be a land base for the practice and perpetuation of Hawaiian culture. And so, that was their vision. And so, we continue to perpetuate that today by doing programs for kids that connect them with the land, and also, you know, we do enrichment programs and leadership, and cultural programs. And they’re in the garden and harvesting, and also just swimming in the streams and maybe doing a lot of the things that I did as a kid, that we all did.  And I feel like what that does today is, it connects us back to the earth, when a lot of us are just busy living somewhat urban lives.  It’s helping them to make the connection.  So, we do programs for kids.  We do resource management.  You know, we manage learning sites, and sites that we’re restoring. We have a fishpond that we’re restoring along the coast, and then we’ve got lo‘i, taro fields, and gardens, and a native plants nursery.  And then, up in the valley, we’re doing reforestation.  And then, sort of teaching and learning through all of that. And even another thing that’s really amazing to us is that we’ve planted a lot of fruit trees lately, orchards of fruit trees, everything from longan and lychee, to mango, and oranges, and avocado, and ulu, star fruit.  And really to be able to create abundance, lots of food, because you know, we know the importance of having lots of food there, both to feed ourselves and you know, to share with community, and then to market too.  But also being able to take the kids out.  Oh, and mountain apples, too; that’s a big one.  Being able to take the kids out and let them pick their own snacks off the trees.  I mean, we grew up with that, but kids nowadays—

 

They look for a box.

 

It blows their mind when they go out and are able to pick mountain apples and eat them.  It’s just the most amazing experience for them.  And for us, I think, that should be so basic, you know.

 

What’s the goal for WaipāFoundation now in the ahupua‘a?

 

So, our vision is a thriving an abundant ahupua‘a, and a healthy community that’s connected to their resources.  And so, it’s both … yeah, exactly that.  Just thriving and abundant, with land and resources being healthy, and feeding us in many ways, both physically, spiritually, and then also community that is connected to the place that helps to take care of it, and is nourished by it, and also actively manages and takes care of the land.  And I think that’s our vision specifically for Waipā, but also, it’s a larger vision.  You know, Waipācould be just a microcosm of the State or the island, or the world, where everybody is directly connected to the resources that feed them and take care of them.

 

Our next guest may not have started out with quite the same intentions as Stacy Sproat-Beck or the Maunakea-Forths.  Richard Ha went into the family farming business, and the founded his own farm on the Hāmākua Coast of Hawai‘i Island.  Along the way, Ha found that his business expertise and entrepreneurial vision prepared him to make progress on challenging issues like sustainability, food security, and renewable energy.  Ha always tries to stay ahead of curve, anticipating the next big need. It all started with the can-do attitude he learned from his dad.

 

When you saw your dad farming, and you were playing with tomatoes, did you think: I want to grow up and be a farmer?

 

No.  Actually, what happened was, I ended up wanting to go into business or into having some kind of organization to be in charge of.  And the reason that happened was because Dad used tell stories when I was about ten years old.  We had this kitchen table that was like a picnic table, with a bench and everything. And he would tell stories about impossible situations.  You know, a business situation, or he had all kinds of different situations.  And it would come down to he came up against a stonewall, there was no way to figure it out, and he’d pound the table, and the dishes would all fly.  He would say—boom; Not no can; can!  I remember that pretty clearly.

 

Not no can; can.

 

Yeah.

 

It’s about problem-solving and the will to overcome the problem.

 

Yeah.  It was just a given that you just don’t come up to a problem and look at and say: Oh, that’s it.  You know, there was always a way around it.

 

What were you gonna do with your accounting degree?

 

You know, actually, I didn’t really know.  I just knew that I had an accounting degree, and if anything came up, I was gonna do it.  But it just so happened Pop asked me to come back and run his chicken farm. I said: Okay, well, I don’t have anything planned; I’ll do that.  So, I came back, helped him run the poultry farm, and in the course of that, met the supermarket people, learned how marketing and that kinda stuff worked.

 

And you learned from the ground, up on that end; right?

 

Yeah; yeah.  I mean, we raised chickens when we were little, but the business end of it was different, you know.  And with an accounting degree, it helped me to analyze stuff.  And so, what happened was, we had forty acres, and twenty-five of it was in the chicken farm, so we had some extra land.  And so, we needed to find out what could we do with no more money.  ‘Cause I only had a three hundred dollar credit card.  Back then it was hard to get a three hundred dollar credit card. So, we started doing some research, and found out that there was about six million pounds of Chiquita Bananas being imported into Hawai‘i.  So, I said: Oh, man, if we could get into that, we should be able to do okay.  So, we started trading chicken manure for banana keiki, and started two acres.

 

At what point did you have your own farm?

 

Well, yeah; that was my dad’s farm, and we made it into a four-way corporation with my brothers.  And then, from there, I went to Kapoho to lease some land over there. And that’s when it started, maybe two years after we started the first banana farm.  And then, when the sugar plantations started closing down, we were able to move closer in to Hilo, at Kea‘au.  So, we moved the farm there.  At Kea‘au, we expanded to three hundred acres, and by then, we became the largest banana farm in the State.

 

Are you confident that local people will buy local produce, even if it’s more expensive?

 

Well, you know, it’s really what we need to do to support our local farmers, because to be food-secure, farmers gotta make money. And come the time when we feel like this is really a serious situation, it’ll happen.  And everybody’s talking about food security.  Now, how do we do that?  And the answer is, if the farmer can make money, the farmer will farm. So, it doesn’t get much more complex than that.  So, in an effort to figure out ways to help farmers make money, you know, with the help of the Department of Ag and the legislators, and a bunch of people, we pushed through legislation so that farmers could get cheap loans, low interest, long-term loans for renewable energy projects.  And how we look at it is how it affects our workers, our community, and the environment.  Every Thursday, our workers can come and just pick up all the different things we grow—bananas and tomatoes, and whatever, you know, as much as they need for their family.  And we have profit sharing, although it’s been tough the last few years.  We have profit sharing, and we want to look, you know, toward whatever we can do to help them with the food side of it. Because it’s hard for us to raise our workers’ salaries, because we can’t raise the price.  Everybody’s having hard time.  So, we have to figure out other ways to help our workers.

 

Keaukaha Elementary School, a Hawaiian Homelands community, and a school that was in the academic basement for twenty years; you adopted a class there.

 

Yeah.  What happened was, I volunteered to be on this thirty meter telescope subcommittee on the Hawaii Island Economic Development Board.  And so, when you talk about telescopes, you automatically talk about the culture.  Maua Kea, you need to talk about the culture.  If you talk about the culture, you end up at Keaukaha.  It’s a seventy-five-year-old Hawaiian Homes community.  And so, that’s where I ended up.  Yeah; so I went over there, talked to Kumu Lehua about telescopes, and had to learn a lot the culture.  I didn’t know as much as I do now.  I was mostly worried about farming.  But you know, the more I got into it, the more I needed to learn.  And then, what was ironic was, here I am on the thirty meter telescope subcommittee, and you’re standing in Keaukaha, you look at the mountain; there’s hundreds of millions of dollars of investment up there.  You look back at the school and the community. So, you know, there’s nothing here of tangible relationship to that.  But whatever the case, we decided this no can; we had to do something.

 

What do you see yourself doing in ten years?

 

You know, it’s hard to say what it’ll be, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be something that I can’t imagine now.  Because we always end up doing something that’s new and different.  Yeah; so I expect that it’ll be something new and different, but it’ll be something, for sure.

 

And it’ll be in farming?

 

I can’t even say that.  I don’t want to just say one particular thing.  But it really has to do with where our society is going, what our circumstance will be.

 

Since this interview first aired in 2008, we can now tell you what Richard Ha is doing.  In 2016, he closed Hāmākua Springs Country Farms and was awarded one of the first Hawaii licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana with a company called Lau Ola.  In the fall of 2018, he left Lau Ola after steering the company through its startup phase.  He said he’ll continue in the agriculture and energy industries.

 

Richard Ha, Stacy Sproat-Beck, and Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth all continue to grow their own enterprises, while building better communities across our state. We thank them for their vision and can-do attitude, and for sharing their stories with us.  We hope they’ve inspired you.  Mahalo for watching.  For Long Story Short and PBS Hawai‘i, I’m Leslie Wilcox.  Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

Kukui Maunakea-Forth

There’s no one right way.  And we’ve all sort of figured out this thing that we bring everything to the table, you put it down, if your idea is better than ours, then hey, we’re gonna go with your idea.  And that’s how it even happened with that very first class.

 

Stacy Sproat-Beck

Things have really just grown like crazy since then, and gone in an amazing direction.  I feel like the lessons learned from those really hard times are kind of what maybe grounds me and the organization in sort of humility and remembering that things don’t always come easy.

 

Richard Ha

Pop taught us a lot of lessons, and it had to do with survival.  Just do what you gotta do, and plan for the future, and you know, make decisions. You gotta do it, do it now, kinda thing like that.

 

And not no can; can.

 

Yeah; absolutely.

 

 

 

The Ultimate Real Estate in a Democracy: Common Ground

 

CEO Message

 

The Ultimate Real Estate in a Democracy: Common Ground

 

KĀKOU – Hawai‘i's Town Hall

 

Leslie Wilcox, PBS Hawai‘i President and CEOAs Hawai‘i real estate keeps getting pricier, I keep thinking of a different kind of real estate that is ultimately more valuable in a democracy.

 

Common ground in our national and local discourse: Priceless.

 

These are days when people don’t just disagree on issues; they have different sets of facts. And there’s a media voice catering to every opinion, affirming what one already believes, whether it’s true or not.

 

We all have reason to worry about our democracy, since its health depends upon shared core values, a level of trust in our leaders, and the reliability of information on which to act.

 

Hawai‘i is by no means seeing the kind of partisan polarization that is gripping the Continent, but we’re struggling to get our arms around and agree upon big issues, such as what to do about homelessness and how to support jobs with increasing automation in the workforce.

 

PBS Hawai‘i brings together Islanders with differing perspectives to engage directly with each other on many top-of-mind subjects and some issues that aren’t considered enough. Real democracies require real discussion.

 

This is not the same as what local daily broadcast news operations do – they generally try to tape separate interviews with the parties, and air the contained sound bites in a two-minute story in the newscast. (It’s not easy to convene people who disagree with each other, especially on short notice.)

 

On our weekly hour-long Insights on PBS Hawai‘i and our periodic two-hour KĀKOU – Hawai‘i’s Town Hall, people on different sides of issues meet face to face – and they’re being televised and streamed live. They show up, because they want to get their message across; because it’s the responsible, responsive thing to do; and because they trust us to treat them fairly. Once in a great while, when an issue is particularly volatile, we’re unable to get pro and con leaders to sit down together. And also infrequently, we end up with a lackluster program because we can’t get participants to depart from canned comments, to have a real conversation.

 

But most times, participants put aside any discomfort they may feel about engaging directly with opponents or critics and answering follow-up questions from our moderator. The best of these participants truly listen, instead of trying to cut short their opponents or simply waiting for their turn to speak. This leads to candid, meaningful exchanges that help viewers develop their own perspectives.

 

With today’s complicated societal challenges keeping us at odds and on hold, our mired democracy seriously needs this kind of civil discourse.

 

When you contribute your hard-earned dollars to PBS Hawai‘i, you are supporting the power of media for public service over profit and politics. And you’re supporting priceless common ground for the common good. Thank you!

 

Aloha nui,

Leslie signature


 

 

Ex Libris:
The New York Public Library

 

Frederick Wiseman’s film, Ex Libris – The New York Public Library, goes behind the scenes of one of the greatest knowledge institutions in the world and reveals it as a place of welcome, cultural exchange and learning. With 92 branches throughout Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, the library is a resource for all the inhabitants of this multifaceted and cosmopolitan city, and beyond.

 

 

POV
Quest

 

Watch an intimate film capturing eight years in the life of a black family from Philadelphia. Follow Christopher “Quest” Rainey, and his wife, Christine’s “Ma Quest,” as they raise a family and nurture a community of hip-hop artists.

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Community Stewards

 

This special features three previous “Long Story Short” guests whose personal values and passion for community have informed their career paths: Dr. Elliot Kalauawa, Chief Medical Officer at Waikiki Health; Dr. Kent Keith, President of the Pacific Rim Christian University; and Connie Mitchell, Executive Director of the Institute for Human Services.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, June 10, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Community Stewards Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Maybe because I’ve been given so much, and I feel so blessed, that for one, I think everyone … it’s a basic need, a basic right, you know, to have healthcare. And I really want to make sure that people are afforded that opportunity.

 

It’s real sad, because we’ve got this population of patients that cannot get the things they need, and yet, we’re surrounded by wealth in this land. But we never give up, we never turn our back, we never say we can’t do it. We still do what we can.

 

I like to say servant leadership is about identifying and meeting the needs of others, rather than acquiring power, wealth, and fame for yourself.

 

All three speakers are in professions that uplift members of our community. And it isn’t just a job for any of them. Rather, it’s an extension of the deeply-held values that guide their lives. Community stewards, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawai‘i’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A steward is someone who looks after other people or things, like finances. A community steward looks after the members of a community, especially when it comes to basic wellbeing: healthcare, food, housing, safety, and evening meaning in life. In this edition of Long Story Short, we’ll revisit three previous guests, all of whom can be called community stewards. We’ll learn more about how their personal values and passion for caring led them into career choices in which they’re helping those in need. We begin with Connie Mitchell. She’s the executive director of Hawai‘i’s oldest and largest nonprofit agency dedicated to homelessness. It’s the Institute for Human Services; no small task in an expensive state that has one of the highest homeless rates in the nation.

 

My parents, being really open, said: Why don’t you go to church? You know, and they actually encouraged me to go. And I went to a church on Judd Street for many years. And, you know, that helped shaped my own faith.

 

Was it the same faith church that they believed in?

 

No. You know, they weren’t Christian. And I think there was a woman that went into the neighborhood and was just, you know, looking for children that might want to go to church. And so, I started going to Sunday School, and then ended up really just learning so much about God’s love, you know. And that was like, a little foreign in some ways, you know, from the culture that I was coming from. But I’m thankful for that, and I think that my faith has actually inspired a lot of the choices that I’ve made, you know, throughout my life and work, particularly. So, I kind of like, you know, was embracing the Christian faith, and then at the same time, you know, my parents practiced their own cultural practices and faith. So … I think it’s in some ways typical, you know, of people who grow up in Hawai‘i. You know, you’re exposed to a different way of thinking. And I’m thankful for the way that Hawai‘i is, you know, that we are able to … no matter how we think or how we believe, that we’re able to get along most of the time. I think as a child, you just know if you’re playing with other people, you’re playing with them, you’re getting along with them, and you don’t think about those other things. But that kind of childhood, growing up in a diverse community very much shapes how you feel when you grow up in a lot of ways. And so, yeah, you know, I think when I think back to the people that I did know and … in the work that you’re doing, or the things that you’re trying to do, you know, it’s just really great to know that you have friends of different kinds. We are, despite the diversity, very much a connected community. You know, people have relationships, strong relationships that go on for a long time.

 

What do you see in the homeless community in that sense?

 

I think one of the things that I’ve struggled with is that, you know, sometimes I see people that I have known from before also. And it makes me particularly … wanting to find a way to help people. And at the same time, we have a lot of people who are not from Hawai‘i, and I have often thought about how I really would want to impart knowledge about the values that we have here in Hawai‘i. Because so many people come, and I feel like they, not knowing some of the practices and the values, seem to not be so respectful, and really have a lot of expectation of the people here. And while we should be helping them, you know, when in actuality, if you come and you have an understanding of the values, you know that you want to be a part of the community, and to give back to the community too. You know, so I’m not saying that everyone like that who comes just wants to take, but there are some people who, you know, don’t have a sense of responsibility or kuleana. And I think that that is something that is very strong and, you know, just really wanting to encourage people to understand that if you come here, can you be a part of our community in a constructive way. What I envision is being able to try to convince people that they can be a part of the community again. You know, they don’t feel a part of the community; that’s why they’re out there. You know, they don’t have a place to go, and we have to, as a community, figure out how to do that. I believe that every one of those people who is capable of working could work if they weren’t using drugs, or you know, their mental health was stabilized.

 

Those are big ifs.

 

Yeah; but we could do it. I believe that it can be done, if we have the will to provide the services, you know, and to walk alongside some of these people so that they can believe also. Because I don’t think they believe it right now; they don’t think that there is a way out. And I’ve seen it happen, that when they start to believe and they actually take a chance on us, they’re able to get out of that situation.

 

You’ve got to talk to lawmakers.

 

Absolutely.

 

You’ve got to talk to funders. You’ve got to talk to homeless people, and supervisors, and community leaders, and business owners.

 

So, there’s no usual day at IHS. Everything is urgent. And you’re right; you know, we really look at the community as a major stakeholder. You know, we serve not only the people who are homeless, but we serve our community. You know, and as a part of that community, we have people who are policymakers, we have people who are funders. People who are just the public. You know, we really want to help people understand better what homelessness is about in Hawai‘i, and we want them to understand how we all can help them better.

 

What keeps you going?

 

That’s a good question. I think it’s really seeing people turn their lives around when we are able to help them. And it happens quite often, I have to tell you. ‘Cause, you know, we’re always sharing among the staff. We basically do a little blast, you know, to let everyone know when someone’s getting housed or exiting into housing, or they got a job, or they’re really on their way. Some of it is getting them back home to the mainland. You know, we started a relocation program, and that has been really successful. You know, I believe it’s a win-win-win for the person who’s going back to the family, the family, and for the State of Hawai‘i. So, I think just, you know, being able to do some new things, find some new solutions, partner with new people who have similar passion and just really want to make a difference, you know, that’s really exciting to me, to see so many people like that.

 

Dr. Elliot Kalauawa is the chief medical officer at Waikiki Health, a nonprofit community clinic that provides medical and social services to all comers, regardless of their ability to pay. Dr. Kalauawa started his life on Hotel Street in Downtown Honolulu, where his single mother spent much of her time drinking and gambling. Yet, he grew up with strong, positive values.

 

Even though my mom lived that lifestyle, I always felt loved by her. I never felt like she was neglecting me. I felt like that was just normal, to grow up there. And then, because of my other family, my godmother, my aunts, my uncles, they all showed me love. And so, I always felt like I was loved. And that’s why I never felt like I had to join a gang to get love there. You know how some of the young ones go to, or to belong. You know, I felt real love. And that, to me, was the key.

 

Did your entire childhood go this way?

 

I would say it started to change some when I went to ‘Iolani from ninth grade. Because the thing was, when I was growing up, part of me felt like I didn’t know where I really belonged. ‘Cause I was growing up in the housing, and all my friends in the housing were people that, when we’d go to school at Palolo Elementary, they were in the special education class. And I look back, and I think I could have got into trouble with them. But I give my mom a lot of credit. My mom was very strict, even though she was doing that type of lifestyle. Her feeling was, she never wanted me to have the kinda lifestyle she had. So, she would always tell me that. She would tell me: You study. And even though she wasn’t home when I’d come home from school, I guess because I knew she could be so firm, and because I knew she really wanted me to do that, when I came home, I would study. I got all my homework done, then I would go out and play with the housing kids. Her influence was so strong, even though she wasn’t physically there, I sort of always felt the need to obey. You know, she’s the kind of person who really didn’t care what others thought. This is what she told me, and she would tell me this several times. She said: Don’t care what people think if they’re not feeding you. And so, that’s why I grew up having that kind of a … you know, that tough thing, where it’s hard to offend me, because I have a tough skin. And I tell people, you know: Just tell me what you think. Because I like it to be constructive, and to me, in order for it to be constructive, the person has to tell you what they feel.

 

And that probably helps you as a doctor; people can tell you things.

 

Yeah.

 

Right?

 

Yeah.

 

Do you ever judge people?

 

Oh, not at all. No. Especially when I look at, you know, my lifestyle, what I grew up in. There’s no point judging anybody. Because on the surface, we might be different, but below the surface, we’re all the same. One of the things like to tell students and residents at our clinic, ‘cause we see homeless patients, I tell them; I say: If you take a homeless person, put him in one exam room, tell him to undress, and you’ll be back in to examine him, you take another person, say, a doctor or lawyer, tell him to undress, you’ll come back in and examine them. And this is where people who have a stereotype about the homeless won’t really understand. So, if you did that, and then you go back into either room, sometimes you can’t tell who the doctor or who the homeless person is. Because the homeless person has the same desires. And some of them are very clean, they’re not like what the stereotype you always see. I mean, there’s some that are dirty and, you know, don’t shower. But some are very clean, some are very educated; they just had bad things happen to them, you know, are very intelligent. So, that’s why I was raised never judging people.

 

You really can’t cure everything that’s wrong with them.

 

No. One of the things in medicine, especially in my field, you know, internal medicine, because we’re a primary care field is, if the patients can come in and just talk to someone about their problems, it’s amazing how much good it does. Because I have patients who will come in, and I just let them talk. They talk the whole visit. At the end of the visit, I haven’t given any recommendations, and they’ll tell me: I feel so much better. And that, to me, is the joy. But I just enjoy the interaction so much, even though I know that medicine today is limited on how we can help them. The point is, I just enjoy that interaction so much, I don’t get frustrated. The patients that I see, in general, a lot of them are from the same background that I’m from. So, that’s more so. In fact, two homeless patients I saw over the years were kids I grew up with. One of them, I saw his name in the chart, and I went in, and he didn’t know who he was gonna see, and he had his back towards the door. I went in, I called his name, he turned around, and he didn’t recognize me, ‘cause it was years. When I told him my name, he said—and he was homeless. And I told him my name. He said: You know, I remember as a kid, you always talked about being a doctor, and I wondered if you made it; and I guess you did. You know. And then, another one of my patients, I played Little League Baseball with him. And then, couple weeks later, after I saw him, I’m coming into the clinic, I’m walking through the waiting room. He’s with another homeless patient, and he stops me, and he says: Hey, tell my friend here that you and I used to play baseball together. And I said: Yeah, we used to play baseball together. I guess his friend couldn’t see that his homeless friend grew with a doctor. You know. And so, yeah, when I see these patients, you know, I see patients that are like my mom, I see patients that grew up the way I grew up. And I really enjoy that. I remember some years ago, one of the Waikiki small newspapers was doing a report, and they asked me: What is it like treating at Waikiki? And I said: Treating at Waikiki Health is like being in a third world country. And said: It’s real sad, because we’ve got this population of patients that cannot get the things they need, and yet, we’re surrounded by wealth in this land. But we never give up, we never turn our back, we never say we can’t do it; we still do what we can. And I’ll give you an example. If somebody comes in, doesn’t have insurance, and I suspect he has pneumonia, instead of getting a chest x-ray, ‘cause I know he can’t afford it, I might treat him, then have him come back the next day or few days later to see how he’s doing clinically. You know, see if he’s making progress. Because I can’t do the chest x-ray, so I’ll have to rely on what he’s told me and my physical exam, and how he responds to treatment. Other patients, I tell them; I say: Okay, we need to get this test. And if it’s a test that’s not urgent, I say: This is the cost of the test, so why don’t you try to save your money, and I’ll give you two months to try to save your money, so that we can get the test. And some of them will do it; they’ll cut back on different expenses. Maybe they won’t eat out, you know, at fast foods as much. So, we have to kind of plan it. So, our whole approach to treating somebody without insurance is different. So, it’s not quick to do the test. And then, when it comes to medications, we rely on samples that the drug companies give us. Or again, sometimes, some of them will go and ask maybe a family member to buy their medication for them. I’ve been at Waikiki Health now thirty-one years. In fact, two days makes thirty-one years. And I look back, and I say, I feel real fortunate, ‘cause I’ve got a career that I truly enjoy. I mean, it’s not work for me. You know, you hear the cliché that, you know, when you enjoy, it’s not really work. Well, for me, it really is. I go to work, and I just enjoy every single day.

 

Dr. Kent Keith is president of the Pacific Rim Christian University in Honolulu, and former head of Chaminade University. Back when he was a sophomore at Harvard University, he read a motivational guide for high school student leaders. Thirty-four years later, he published these life lessons in a book called: Anyway, The Paradoxical Commandments. It’s been translated into seventeen languages and sold around the world, and guess who often gets credit online for these penetrating lessons? No less than Mother Teresa. But no; she never made such a claim. The book is based on what Dr. Keith gleaned growing up in a military family that relocated often. It reflects his passion of helping others to find personal meaning in their lives.

 

By the time I was fourteen, I arrived in Hawai‘i when I was fourteen, I’d already crossed the country nine times by car. And each time, we went a different way; national monuments, natural wonders, historic sites. So, it was very educational. It was also educational in learning that, you know, we are one country, and we have common beliefs and values, but we also have different subcultures. And so, you get a sense of, you know, within one nation, there are differences. It was hard, because I was almost always the new kid in school. So you know, you have start making new friends, and by the time you’ve really made friends, you’re moving again, and you’re leaving them. That sort of had an impact. But it had one benefit, which is that you didn’t bring any baggage. Nobody knew who you were before.

 

You could start again.

 

I got all these fresh starts when I was growing up. So, yeah, I think for us as a family, it just pulled us closer together, because we were our community. We were the people we relied on.

 

So, you didn’t complain every time your dad got transferred? Oh, no, not again; I gotta meet a whole bunch of new people.

 

No, actually, what happened was, after a while, I began building walls. I began saying: Why make friends if you’re gonna lose ‘em, you know, nine months later. And then, I figured out that didn’t make any sense; I still wanted to have friends, and I still wanted to connect with people. So, it’s all part of growing up is figuring out, you know, things like, what does friendship mean, what do relationships mean. And so I mean, on balance, I think it had quite a bit of impact, and for me, I think it was positive.

 

You made friends at Stevenson, and they went up to Roosevelt with you. But what was it like? You were in many different school environments. What was it like?

 

You know, the most interesting environments, really, was getting a sense of what it was like to be a minority. And my first experience that I remember was in eighth grade in Rhode Island, when the school was mostly African American. And then coming to Hawai‘i, and realizing, you know, we can work together. I was in lots of activities, and that really helped. Got into student government, I was in the band, I was in different clubs, and so on. And so, if you focus on doing things together, you focus on, you know, what do we want to achieve, a lot of the things don’t matter, and you can belong, everybody can belong no matter where they’re from. So, I think the extracurricular program is what really helped me the most. It wasn’t so much what happened in the classroom.

 

Did your father and mother give you advice about breaking into new schools and new communities?

 

You know, I don’t remember them doing that. What I remember was that my family wanted us to behave the way they wanted us to behave. And we were a little bit different. We had chores. And if the other kids were out playing, that’s fine. You’d have your time to play, but right now, you need to mow the lawn, or you need to pull weeds. You know. So, the idea was, it’s who we think we are, you know, what our values are and what we think a family means. I mean, we’re all gonna be home at dinner, we’re gonna talk about what’s happening. And so, the worst argument I could make as a kid about doing something was: Everybody else is doing it. That was not an acceptable argument. That didn’t mean anything in our family. The idea was, well, you know, what’s worth doing and what’s balanced, and are you helping out with the family, and you know, are you learning what you need to learn. You know, they were both wonderful. I was so blessed to have them as parents. And they were a great team together, and we never doubted that they loved us, we never doubted that they cared about us. And I was always proud of them.

 

When you were a nineteen-year-old at Harvard University, you wrote … some ten thoughts, and they’ve resonated around the world. They were found posted on a wall at Mother Teresa’s children’s home, and in fact, she was given credit for writing them. In fact, it’s you, a former nineteen-year-old, writing some very wise and clever sayings.

 

Well, it was the 60s, and I was in student government here, and then I went on to Harvard, and I continued to work with high school student leaders. But it was the 60s, so you know, a lot of conflict and confrontation, turmoil. And yet, a lot of idealism and a lot of hope that somehow, we could make the world a better place. So, what was disappointing to me was seeing so many young people go out in the world to bring about change, and then seeing them come back much too quickly because the change they wanted wasn’t achieved, and people didn’t seem to appreciate what they were trying to do. So, I had a couple of major messages for them. I was traveling around the country speaking, and working at high schools and student council conventions. I said: Well, first of all, you gotta love people, because that’s one of the only motivations strong enough to keep you with the people, and with the process, until change is achieved, ‘cause it usually takes time. It could take a lot of time. And secondly, I said: You know, if you go out there and do what you believe is right and good and true, you’re gonna get a lot of meaning. That should give you a lot of meaning and satisfaction. And if you have the meaning, you don’t have to have the glory. The meaning should be enough. People appreciate you, that’s fine. If they don’t, you’re okay, you still got the meaning, and that should keep you energized. So, I decided to write a booklet for them. Took me a long time to decide whether to write one at all, ‘cause I figured well, people know this, and you know, it’s already been said. But I started writing this booklet on how to bring about change by working together. And one chapter was about love, about brotherly love we called it then, about caring about people. And talked about this issue of meaning. In order to get across my point about meaning, I wrote The Paradoxical Commandments. So, each one starts with a statement of adversity, but it’s followed by the positive commandment to do it anyway. So, people are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway. So, you start with a statement of adversity, you go into the positive commandment. And they’re meant to be examples of an attitude.

 

How did you learn all of that so early?

 

Yeah. Well, I’ve been very blessed. I mean, there were two major sources behind this. One was just my family. I mean, I grew up in a family that lived that way. And so, I wrote The Paradoxical Commandments. I showed the manuscript to my dad, for example, and I remember him looking at them and going: Uh-huh, yup, we know this, nice of you to write it down. I mean, my parents, my aunts, my uncles, they did it anyway. They were focused on loving people, and helping people, and doing what’s right, and they were not after power, wealth, and fame. They did what was meaningful.

 

You’ve had some very prominent positions, but you haven’t handled your career in the traditional ways.

 

Right.

 

You’ve come in, come out, gone here, gone there. And as you look back, what do you think about your progression?

 

You know, I just feel very fortunate. I feel very lucky, because each job was meaningful; it was about something I really cared about. I believe that each time, I was able to work with a team to produce results that helped people. You know, it’s interesting. Years ago, I read a book; the author suggested that traditionally, men’s careers were like the search for the Holy Grail, and women’s careers were like knights-errant. The search for the Holy Grail, the idea being that you start at a profession or an organization, and went as far as you could go in search of the highest position you could get. But because of the way our society was structured then, with couples, men and women and so on, careers, men tended to move around as their career developed, and so, they would be changing locations. So, that disrupted the wife’s career. And so, when they moved to a new location, the wife would look around and say: What needs doing, and can I do it, and can get a job doing that? So that, that was more like the knight-errant who went out each day to find someone who needed help, and then helped them. I like that, because I think I’ve been more on the knight-errant side. You know, find something that is worth doing, and if you have the opportunity to do it, go in there and do your best. But if we know what’s meaningful to us, then we look for things in that arena. What you have is, you have this dissonance or disconnect between here’s what our culture says, you know, are the symbols of success, we’re gonna measure you by those, but here are the sources of meaning that are really gonna energize you and make your life worthwhile. Can you bring those together, is the question. So, if you start with the meaning, and you end up being successful, that’s terrific.

 

Dr. Kent Keith, Dr. Elliot Kalauawa, and Connie Mitchell; each comes from a different background, but all grew up feeling loved, and now carry that love into their work as community stewards. Mahalo to our three guests, all of Honolulu, for sharing with us your passion for caring. And mahalo to you, for joining us. For PBS Hawai‘i and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha, a hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

Do you think you would be unhappy in a place that had well-heeled patients who could pay their bills with insurance, and cash?

 

Yeah. Because I would feel like I’m not doing all that I can do.

 

You’re gonna be more accurate and better connected, and more likely to do the right things if you’re focused on serving others, rather than just looking at your own power, wealth, or fame.

 

When you think back to the people that maybe were your mentors, I think back about the people that were mine. If there were not those people in my life, then I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing.

 

 

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