Holding Hands

Tūtū and Me Staff Volunteer at Kupa ʻAina June 21, 2019

Tūtū and Me Staff Volunteer at Kupa ʻAina June 21, 2019

Although the school year is pau, work is not quite done for the staff of our Tūtū and Me Traveling Preschool. This month Oʻahu Tūtū and Me staff came together to volunteer at our Kupa ʻAina Demonstration Natural Farming Project in Kailua.

The purpose of the visit was threefold. First, Partners in Development Foundation (PIDF) is renewing its commitment to cross-training our staff, using all available resources to ensure PIDF staff have a well-rounded understanding of our mission, our programs, and our communities.

Second, Kupa ʻAina needs more volunteers! While Kupa ʻAina Project Director Kūʻike Kamakea-Ohelo and Project Coordinator Zachary Huang are dedicated and diligent kānaka, they are only two! Kupa ʻAina always welcomes volunteers at the farm to get their hands dirty and learn about Natural Farming. “Having many hands is a blessing,” says Kūʻike.

Lastly, Kupa ʻAina helps our staff and others who visit to mālama the ʻāina and reconnect to it. ‘Mālama’ is one of our five Hawaiian values here at Partners in Development Foundation, and we have a strong sense of kuleana (responsibility) to our past, present, and future.

“This sense of stewardship with a humble heart is a trait we aim to instill in our children and neighbors through our commitment to servant-leadership,” says president and founder Jan Dill.

Project Director Kūʻike talks to the staff under the new tent they put up.

The day started with traditional Hawaiian protocol. The Tūtū and Me group gave an oli to request permission to enter the Kupa ʻAina site, and Kūʻike and Zach answered with their own oli inviting Tūtū and Me to enter.

After filling in the staff about the intentions for the day, the group set to work on the first task: erecting a large tent. The extra space is necessary to help organize work on the farm, and to shield staff and volunteers from the hot Hawaiian sun.

The major task Kūʻike had in store for Tūtū and Me involved the lifeblood of Kupa ʻAina: harvesting fish amino acid, an input used to provide crops with an abundant amount of nutrients and vital nitrogen. Kupa ʻAina makes its own fish inputs on site, and after several months, the fermented final product is truly ripe and ready to go!

Tūtū and Me staff hold up fermented fish heads from the input they’re separating to be used as fertilizer at Kupa ʻAina.

Maggots and other insects lined the tops of the barrels of the fermented fish input, and was a little shocking to some of the staff. But they quickly got over their apprehension and dove right into the process of separating the fish solids from the ‘black gold’ of the liquid used on the fields.

“We learned about sustainability, how to live off the land, and biology,” said teaching assistant Makana Isaacs-Acasio of Tūtū and Me’s volunteering. “I’m hoping to bring back what I learned to my classroom with my keiki and my caregivers.”

The primary goal of Kupa ʻAina is to address food insecurity here in Hawaiʻi. Kupa ʻAina utilizes a blend of Korean Natural Farming methods and indigenous Hawaiian practices from our kūpuna. Together, these efforts rejuvenate the land, grow healthy native crops, and test a model of sustainable food production.

“It really takes a lot of labor, and it’s really a labor of love to get things done, on the ʻāina,” says Kūʻike of the Kupa ʻAina project. “So when we have other programs within Partners in Development Foundation… come and just share the aloha, it’s really uplifting and really lifts a burden.”

To learn more about the visit or see our staff in action, watch the video now!