Gayla Ann Mahealani Haliniak

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Beneficiary Service Agent
Hui Huliāmahi (Beneficiary Services)
9 years at OHA

From: Kalamaʻula (ahupuaʻa), Kona (moku), Molokaʻi (mokupuni)

Education:

  • Roosevelt High School
  • Maui Community College – Molokaʻi

What is your kuleana at OHA?

My kuleana is to serve our lāhui spiritually and culturally, and to uplift our Native Hawaiian people in any way possible, from directing them to OHA’s services to building partnerships with other agencies and outside resources. The struggle is real for our people, and we have to be their voice. When someone has walked two miles from town to apply for emergency financial help with no slippers on their feet, my job is to first give them a pair of slippers…and then help them get the services they need. Sometimes, people come in with homestead issues, needing kūpuna services, or just wanting to talk story about their struggles and I connect them to the correct resources. I mean business when it comes to our people. I am humbled and blessed that God’s plan was for me to be here. I am honored to serve my community.

Why did you choose to work for OHA?

Before I joined OHA, I worked at Alu Like for 15 years. At Alu Like my service to our lāhui was limited and I always felt I belonged to something bigger. When Alu Like reduced my hours, an opening became available at the Molokaʻi OHA office. I took a chance and I am thankful that Kūhiō Lewis hired me. It felt like coming home, I am now able to help all Native Hawaiians seeking kōkua without limitation. This is my passion.

What is the best thing about working at OHA?

The best thing about working for OHA are my co-workers. We have aloha for one another, and we always have each other’s backs. We have gone through trials together and celebrated victories together; that’s why we work well as a team.

What is something interesting for people to know about you?

I live on homestead land in Kalamaʻula, Molokaʻi. Kalamaʻula was the first Hawaiian homestead and my great-grandfather was awarded “Lot 6” – one of the first Hawaiians awarded land in the 1920s through a pilot project with DHHL. Fast forward to 1987: when we were awarded homestead land in 1987, in the newer, ma uka part of Kalamaʻula, I was also blessed to receive “Lot 6!” I also have 20 grandchildren, a dog named Coco, and I am about to become a great-grandmother.

Who has been your role model?

My tūtū, Hannah Kaʻapuni Pali-Pahupu Machado. She taught me unconditional love, that family is your everything, and to have compassion in spiritual work. My mother, Barbara J. Haliniak, taught me community service and to give from the heart.

What is your best OHA memory?

My best memory was when all OHA staff and their families were invited to spend the day together at Secret Beach at Kualoa. It was a time of rejuvenation after months of hard work. It was awesome. I even tried to get Chair Machado to paddleboard that day, but to no avail – she kept falling off – that was a “kodak moment!”