On Thursday, April 18, 2013, twenty-five 8th graders from Punahou Schools and their teachers visited the Pai‘olu Kaiāulu Shelter in Wai‘anae as part of Project Citizen, a curricular program that promotes participation in local and state government, and helps participants learn how to monitor and influence public policy. The 25 students who chose to examine issues relating to homelessness were eager to see and experience the shelter as well as take part in Ka Pa‘alana’s preschool and outreach programs.
The day started with an orientation of the shelter and Ka Pa‘alana. Students got an opportunity to hear from Rita Martin, Community Relations Coordinator for USVets, who shared about the overall picture of homelessness on the Leeward Coast and the history of the shelter, as well as from several Ka Pa‘alana staff regarding the program’s approach to helping homeless families.
After the introduction, students broke up into one of three groups—education, facilities, and outreach—to participate in and learn more about those specific areas. Those in the education track took part in the preschool activities for the day, learning about the importance of early childhood education and the important role that parents play in the lives of their children; those in facilities worked on small improvement projects at the shelter; those in outreach took part in a food distribution to homeless families on the beach. Many of the students walked away with a new perspective on the issues of homelessness. One student shared, “We’ve spent so much time on the subject of homelessness but today we saw that it was about people.”
Hopefully these future leaders use this experience to inform their decisions on public policy, and in doing so, give back to not only the Leeward Coast community but the community at large.
Mahalo to the students and staff of Punahou School, and to Gladys Peraro (Executive Director for USVets), Rita Martin (Community Relations Coordinator for USVets), and Charlotte Nitahara (Family Specialist for USVets) for all they do to support homeless families on the Leeward Coast.