Born out of tragedy, Kūkulu Kumuhana O Anahola is building community resilience with the support of three grants from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs
“He kēhau hoʻomaʻemaʻe ke aloha.
Love is like cleansing dew.”
Love removes hurt.
It was October of 2008 when the Hawaiian community at Anahola on Kauaʻi was shaken as they mourned the loss of three young Native Hawaiians who tragically took their own lives.
Coming together to remember these ʻōpio, concerned residents formed Kūkulu Kumuhana O Anahola (KKOA), a community nonprofit with a mission to provide safe places to deter suicide by building life skills that strengthen Hawaiian cultural identity, empowering individuals to successfully manage their future.
Three separate grants from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) are helping the organization to achieve its vision of a healthy and thriving Hawaiian community in Anahola that is active in traditional and modern culture; utilizes new technologies to enhance the old; and establishes and manages its own food system to provide a healthy and sustainable way of living.
A key piece to KKOA’s overall strategy has been the ongoing development of the Ulupono Anahola Agricultural Community and Youth Center. The 10-acre facility, located on Hawaiian Home Lands, will include kalo patches, fruit trees, a community garden, a storage and processing area, meeting rooms and more.
A $75,000 OHA grant is currently being used to install a water irrigation system for the farm while another $100,000 grant has been awarded to KKOA for its “Hana Ka Lima” initiative which is providing programs and opportunities to the homestead community to establish thriving ʻōpio with well-developed skills and involve mākua and community leaders who are invested in nurturing ʻŌiwi leaders.
A $10,000 OHA ʻAhahui grant sponsored the group’s three-day “ʻĀina to ʻŌpū” community event held in December 2021 where cultural practitioners provided educational demonstrations to help restore proficiency of kalo as a heritage plant and homestead food resource.
KKOA Co-Founder and President Kuʻuleialoha Punua and Executive Director Rae Makanani Nam have impressed OHA’s Grants staff with their dedication, passion and community spirit.
“Kuʻuleialoha and Rae have worked around the clock to meet the needs of the Anahola community and to accomplish their dream of establishing an agricultural and youth training center in Anahola. Working with the women who run KKOA, visiting scholars have seen firsthand the small, daily tasks involved in their longer-term struggle to express their aloha ʻāina through supporting the youth and families of Anahola, and via securing land for Hawaiian food sovereignty and prosperity,” said OHA Grants Officer Strather Ing.
Nam joined KKOA as a board member in 2013 and stepped into the role of executive director in November 2020 to oversee the Ulupono Ana- hola project, which is expected to open in phases with the first phase comprised of student and community garden training beginning in November 2022. The entire project is planned for completion in three to five years, depending on funding.
“With Ulupono Anahola, we’ll be able to provide so much more that will impact the community. This project will provide a certified kitchen for the community to use, community gardens for both ʻohana and youth, a youth center, a hale hālāwai, a nursery, and a medicinal garden area. We still have an additional 20 acres we requested in our original right of entry, but for now we’ll start with this 10-acre property,” Nam said.
Nam said she is very appreciative of being awarded the grants, with OHA just one of several organizations that support the work of KKOA.
“The OHA grants will help our youth be resilient and realize their value and worth to their families and community, allow them to continue to perpetuate their culture, and provide a healthy and thriving food system in the community that will help them to not be dependent on imported foods,” she said.
“These grants will also provide a safe place for resources and gatherings that will strengthen these children individually and collectively. The grants will also open doors for economic stability in the future and educate both our youth and ʻohana in growing their own foods. All of these opportunities are proven to deter suicide, which has been a concern on Kauaʻi and specifically in the Anahola community for years.”
Nam said there’s a bigger picture of what the OHA Grants Program is achieving.
“What OHA is helping with is not just accomplishing KKOAʻs projects or goals for the Anahola community. Their grants are literally changing the landscape of the ʻāina in the Anahola community, which is triggering a chain reaction that isn’t only affecting the ʻāina, but it’s affecting people and moving them to participate and not just be bystanders,” she said.
“The grants provide for workshops and programs that perpetuate our culture – like making their own papa kuʻiʻai, planting or harvesting kalo, learning from cultural practitioners and our kūpuna and more – OHA’s assistance is helping KKOA to trigger all the possibilities of drawing out the very best from this community.”
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