In the midst of the small-town Kohala of Hawaiʻi Island, PIDF’s Tūtū and Me Home Visiting program connects with ʻohana who learn how to strengthen their household and support their keiki. But not only that— some ʻohana have opened up their hearts, homes, and hands to support PIDF ʻohana in other ways.
Drivers stop on the side of the road in Kohala where a hand-painted bed sheet reads, “Free Hot Cocoa.” At the back of the vehicle, the trunk opens to a pop-up tent and a station where an ʻohana of six— four keiki, mom, and dad— serve freshly brewed hot cocoa. Every year, the Nicoll ʻohana sets aside money they would use for Christmas gifts, and instead, shares their earnings in exchange for a moment of warmth and aloha with anyone who stops by. For the Nicolls, this family tradition asks nothing in return; a simple smile and laugh with their Kohala neighbors is more than they need to keep the tradition alive.
“I want to teach my children that Christmas should be about giving, not just receiving,” said Paris Nicoll, full-time caregiver of four keiki.
The hot cocoa holiday tradition is only one of many efforts Paris orchestrates to share her family’s blessings.
After a morning of Christmas festivities, the Nicoll family carries their merry spirit and share their blessings to the kupuna at their local elderly housing complex, where visitors and family are not always around to celebrate the holidays. The Nicolls hand out handmade goodie bags— and not just during the holidays. Once or twice a year they will also drop off food baskets.
“Over the years it’s been honestly even more than us blessing them. It’s been a blessing to us seeing their smiles and their joy,” said Paris.
What’s more is that the Nicoll family inspires a network of connection and support for their community. Paris hosts potluck style gatherings, like the favorited paint party, with mothers in the community. Paris opens up her home to ʻohana she meets through her Tūtū and Me site and others who may be new in the neighborhood and encourages a place to come to feel and give support in a fun way.
“Paris and her ohana are the epitome of our PIDF values,” said Lani Bowman, Tūtū and Me Home Visitor. “For the Nicolls, Aloha is not a word, it is a lifestyle of showing aloha everyday to each other, to friends and strangers and EVERYONE! Mom and Dad teach their keiki the true meaning of Mālama by holding themselves accountable to not only teach keiki but actively involve keiki in the amazing services they provide to others. They are the torch of passing love on! Po’okela, striving for excellence not perfection in life is what they also model.”
To top it all off, Paris looks after the safety of her community. After witnessing one too many close calls between pedestrians and oncoming traffic at a local crosswalk, Paris tried to get local and State agencies to install flags to warn drivers that pedestrians may be crossing ahead, with no prioritization on the case. She didn’t hesitate to take action. Paris purchased and installed the flags with her ʻohana so that anyone who drives past the crosswalk knows to be cautious.
While the Nicoll parents can spearhead the projects and share their values with their keiki, their keiki, too, inspire them. They have often found their kids stripping their rooms clean and filling up bags with their toys to donate to the local church. Paris laughs and shares that some of the toys are new, and some have to be saved!
Though Paris is happy to see that however big or small, the actions the ʻohana takes can make a meaningful impact.
When it comes to dressing up ever-growing keiki, the art of thrift shopping becomes so much more than just finding sweet deals. For the avid thrifter and full-time caregiver, Reynelle Tabano spearheaded community clothing exchanges to stretch a household’s budget while maintaining style and steez for many households in Hawaiʻi Island’s Kohala community.
“I have a hard time spending money on expensive stuff because I’m like, ʻI could get that for a fraction of the price,ʻ” said Reynelle. “I have to stretch the budget… buying used and thrifting saves us a lot of money.”
After learning about clothing exchanges during a visit back home in Maui, Reynelle returned to Kohala with a passion to start one up. Bowman encouraged and supported her to launch the community clothing exchanges to support other households in Kohala.
Reynelle and her keiki participate in Tūtū and Me’s Home Visiting program, designed to strengthen the caregiver-keiki pilina (relationship) at home. Through her programming, Reynelle connected with fellow Kohala caregivers and Lani Bowman, a Tūtū and Me Home Visitor.
“Reynelle and her small band of family members and friends would enthusiastically set up tables, provide music and refreshments for shoppers, said Bowman. “It was more than a clothing exchange, it was an exchange of caring and love! I am just blown away with her caring and commitment to families, the community and the environment!”
The community clothing exchanges were held every quarter at the Kohala Library. For some growing keiki, three months is all the time they need to start growing into a new wardrobe. Kohala ʻohana members brought in gently used clothes to exchange. At any given exchange, approximately 40 to 50 kids and adults would show up and shop.
Families were encouraged to bring any extra clean and gently used clothing which was then categorized into girls, boys, womens, etc. After everything was set up, everyone could just shop for free. Even if a family was unable to attend, Tabano set aside clothes in the sizes they needed and delivered them to the families. She made sure that anyone who needed a refreshed wardrobe could get one.
Tabano’s drive to start this exchange not only addressed a need in the community but also built a community itself. During the exchanges, “everyone’s socializing and the kids are playing… so it’s nice, it’s like a party.”
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the clothing exchanges have paused in order to maintain social distancing protocols. She was disheartened when community members mentioned how much they missed the clothing exchange.
However, Reynelle kept going. She helps a local thrift shop sort through their clothes and when she crosses paths with other caregivers she would be sure to ask, “do you want clothes?”