Growing and inspiring young leaders on Hawai‘i Island

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“In 2019, we still have kids going without. Going unsupervised after school, going without an essential meal, and what were trying to do is support all those aspects of need, to support the kids and their families.”

— Chad Cabral, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island

Photo: CEO Chad Cabral
CEO Chad Cabral shares the meaningful work of the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island.

When the bell rings at the end of the school day, students run to the large grass field in front of Hilo Union Elementary School, excited to see their club leaders and friends. In one long line, over 80 students, guided by club staff, travel together as a “walking school bus.” Cars stop and wave as the large group journeys safely across the two blocks that it takes to get to the Hilo Boys and Girls Club.

The Boys and Girls Club of Big Island supports their communities by providing quality programs and a safe and caring environment to each of their members for only $10 per year, per each child, making their service an affordable and reliable option for Hawai‘i’s families. Currently BGCBI has are six locations through out Hawai‘i Island; Hilo, Ke‘eau, Pahoa, Pahala, Ocean View/Na‘alehu and Kona.

BGCBI is the first Boys and Girls Club in the state of Hawai‘i and the longest running. When the club started 67 years ago, it heavily revolved around athletics with a baseball, football, and basketball program. BGCBI still offers a baseball program, however, as the needs of the community evolved, so did their services. Through their work, the organization hopes to inspire and enable Hawai‘i Island youth to be productive and responsible citizens.

“In 2019, we still have kids going without. Going unsupervised after school, going without an essential meal, and what were trying to do is support all those aspects of need, to support the kids and their families,” said Chad Cabral, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island.

Today, the club takes a hollistic approach to providing care for its club members. BGCBI offers opportunities for youth to participate in outdoor activities, learn music, computer skills, gain Hawaiian cultural knowledge and an evening meal.

Each day starts with a gathering at the piko, the center of the clubhouse. At the sound of the conch shell, the kids lead each other in a series of oli and cultural protocol to start their afternoon. Club members then break out into groups for music classes, where they learn how to play the ukulele from Hawaiian musician Peter Moon Jr., and outdoor activities such as recreational sports, makahiki games, and cultural based gardening. Later in the day, the kids then gather to have an afternoon meal.

BGCBI started a healthy meal program two years ago after seeing a need from the students within their program. The organization learned that some of their kids are going to school not only to learn, but also to eat. BGCBI now offers a healthy snack or meal at all six locations, free of charge.

“For the first week that we started our program, one of our kids, he was about eight years-old at the time, came up to our aunty who was serving the food. He asked the aunty ‘Can I get a piece of tin foil?’ and aunty responded, ‘How come you need a piece of tin foil for your evening meal?’ He said, ‘because I want to take home for my brother and my mom.’ That really communicated to us that what we’re doing is a good thing, is an important thing, is a needed thing,” said Cabral.

The kids end their day with the “Power Hour,” a homework assistance program, where club members dedicate one hour each day towards completing their school assignments or other educational activities. Also available during this time is the Mohala ‘Ike Project, a program that strengthens academic success by offering specialized tutoring services and academic support.

“People who work here aren’t working for the money. They’re working for the reward of seeing the kids and watching them develop and grow, watching them succeed, watching them with their challenges, and really supporting them through that,” Cabral shares, when asked about what motivates his staff. “If you invest in the kids now, our communities will be stronger. Our communities will be flourishing and the problems that we are seeing today will be addressed by these kids.”

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is proud to partner with and support The Boys and Girls Club of Big Island in serving the youth of Hawai‘i Island. In fiscal year 2018, OHA Community Grants distributed $250,638 in funds for their Mohala ‘Ike Project. OHA Community Grants is a great opportunity for non-profit organizations serving Native Hawaiians to receive program funding over a two year time period. Learn more about the OHA Community Grants at www.oha.org/grants.