The opening session of the 2017 Native Hawaiian Convention included a panel discussion by aliʻi trust leaders who expressed a shared desire for collaboration and greater outreach into the community, as well as the importance of adapting to meet today’s needs.

In her update on Liliʻuokalani Trust, Kathy Tibbets talked about how the organization has broadened its kuleana to care for Hawaiʻi’s orphaned and destitute children in order to reach more vulnerable keiki. “We’re not abandoning the past but also looking to the future. We’re not changing our mission… what is changing is the focus on breaking the cycle of poverty,” she said.

Part of that means more extensive community outreach to find those who can benefit most from services they may not even be aware exist. “The people who come to us are able to come to us. How do we find the people who can’t find the way to our door?” Tibbets asked.

In addition to outreach activities, Liliʻuokalani Trust, Kamehameha Schools and The Queen’s Medical Center all have plans to increase their physical presence in Hawaiian communities.

Kamehameha Schools’ Jack Wong talked about the school’s Vision 2040. Using efforts to save the endangered native ʻalalā as a metaphor, Wong pointed out that the solution isn’t adding more Hawaiian crows, but creating a forest where they can thrive. “You cannot raise a child in captivity. We have to have a thriving forest, otherwise we raise these kids and they leave,” he said. Services for kūpuna, housing and healthy communities can help these keiki to flourish at home.

William Aila Jr., deputy chairman of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, said the agency is in a period of self-review to improve processes and leave the department in a better position. “We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors,” he noted.

DHHL is working with neighbor island beneficiaries to create more lots for subsistence agriculture. For those who can’t afford turnkey homes or to build on vacant lots, DHHL is also looking at more residential options such as tiny homes, rentals with the option to purchase, and partnerships with Habitat for Humanity and other self-help organizations. The homestead agency also established two water reservations on Hawaiʻi Island and Kauaʻi. Aila asked for patience as DHHL works through its challenges, pointing out, “Any decision we make is going to affect one category of beneficiaries at the expense of another.”

Diane Paloma, in her third month as Lunalilo Homes’ first CEO, is charged with implementing the trust’s new Kauhale Kūpuna strategic plan. That involves looking for ways to expand services in the community, enhancing quality of care and ensuring financial stability. Paloma’s former colleague at The Queen’s Medical Center, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gerard Akaka, talked about expanding outpatient services into the community, including through creation of more primary care clinics.

Closing out the panel, Office of Hawaiian Affairs Ka Pouhana Kamanaʻopono Crabbe talked about figuring out where OHA and other Native Hawaiian-serving institutions fit in today’s political climate. After listening to what other leaders shared, he encouraged them to continue the conversation and find ways to collaborate so the individual trust organizations can identify areas where they work better together and what roles they can play. If trust organizations partner to develop “a very clear educational plan, a very clear health plan, a very clear cultural plan to accomplish what we want to do, then we can define our kuleana,” Crabbe said.