On September 25, 2009 and October 14, 2009, Ka Pa‘alana’s Mālama Mobile Outreach and ‘Ike No‘eau Teams, along with 600 eighth graders from Mililani Middle School’s Kūpono, Laulima, and Mālama tracks, participated in Mililani Middle School’s annual walk-a-thon, which raises money for worthy causes. Each student solicited monetary contributions from friends, families, and neighbors, based on the number of laps he or she would complete during the walk-a-thon.
The annual walk, which started out as a community service project to raise funds for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, has become a movement of sorts, spurring students to examine the problems facing the community around them and find ways to better the lives of others.
This year, the students chose homelessness as the most prevalent problem in Hawai‘i, designating Partners in Development Foundation, specifically, Ka Pa‘alana, to be the beneficiary of the funds raised during the walk-a-thon. Past beneficiaries include the American Red Cross, the Institute for Human Services, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and Family Programs Hawai‘i.
In preparation for this year’s walk, Danny Goya, program manager for Ka Pa‘alana, Errol “Kia‘i” Lee, Mālama Mobile’s Lead Outreach Coordinator, and Pohai Ka‘awa, ‘Ike No‘eau Teaching Assistant, attended student assemblies on August 19, 2009 and September 2, 2009 to shed light on and to dispel the misconceptions surrounding the plight of homeless families on the Leeward Coast of O‘ahu.
Pohai Ka‘awa, a former participant of Ka Pa‘alana’s preschool program, shared her story and the challenges she faced trying to raise a family while being homeless. In the course of a few hours, the mood of the assembly became noticeably pensive as students began to put a face to the homeless problem and understand the challenges that homeless families face on a daily basis. After the talk, many students, including a few who had resided at the Onelauena emergency homeless shelter in Kalaeloa and participated in Ka Pa‘alana’s Kama‘ehu Youth Mentoring Program, thanked Pohai for sharing not just her story but their story.
In addition to the money raised during the walk-a-thon, the students also donated clothing and goods estimated to be worth over $1000.00.
Referring to the power of youth to change circumstances, Ms. Hafsat Abiola, Nigerian Human Rights Activist, once said, “Guard your light and protect it. Move it forward into the world and be fully confident that if we connect light to light to light, and join the lights together of the one billion young people in our world today, we will be enough to set our whole planet aglow.”
Looking at the eighth graders of Mililani Middle School gives hope that the future will glow that much brighter.