Tucked between two churches in Kalihi, running alongside North King Street and Kanoa street, is an easy-to-miss building where Micronesians and Pacific Islanders go for help.
Since the spread of the pandemic in Hawaiʻi, the We Are Oceania office became stacks of donation boxes, echoes of helpline phone calls rattling the cubicle dividers, shuffles of community members’ paperwork, and a whirlwind of five different spoken Pacific Island languages.
The Micronesian and Pacific Island community of Hawaiʻi has been the hardest hit by Coronavirus. State data reported that Pacific Islanders account for 27% of Hawaiʻi’s coronavirus cases, yet only 4% of the state population. It’s no wonder WAO became a recipient of the City and County of Honolulu Coronavirus Relief Fund. The Hawaiʻi Community Foundation administered the commitment of up to $2 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The high percentage of coronavirus cases among the Micronesian and Pacific Islander community is due in part to the lack of accessibility for them. That’s when WAO decided to take the lead in addressing these issues. For individuals interested in receiving support, WAO will be providing the following personalized support:
What’s more, is the community and media’s unending support to get these resources known and available. WAO has since produced Public Service Announcements that have been airing on TV and various social media platforms in five different Pacific Island languages.
“Our collective community efforts will hopefully help to slow down the spread of the virus statewide and bridge the gap between available resources and who has access to them,” said Josie Howard, We Are Oceania Program Director.
Before the pandemic hit, the one-stop-Micronesian center has been providing services such as language access, health connections, pre-employment training, and service referrals from federal, state and local government resources.
Though the WAO team of very few juggles many hats, they’ve worked day in and day out, hustling between meetings and gathering donations, their mission remains true: to serve, support, and stand with the many voices of Oceania while honoring the integrity of their diverse heritage.
To donate, collaborate, or other ways to support WAO, visit weareoceania.org or call (808) 754-7303.