There is Honor in Hard Work


Hana (nvt. To work, labor, do, behave, commit, make, create, perform, prepare.)

Photo: Sylvia Hussey

Aloha mai kākou,

My parents raised me to work hard.

Dad was the oldest of eight children and his parents died young. He attended school through the eighth grade and then went to work on the sugar plantation in order to provide for his younger siblings.

Mom was the second oldest of 15 children and in large families everyone worked. She attended school through the ninth grade and then got a job as a nanny for the plantation manager’s wife. She would walk from her house up ma uka in Waiʻāpuka to the Halaʻula Mill each week, returning home on the weekends to spend time with her ʻohana.

At both my mother’s and father’s funerals, we talked about their work ethic – this core value that they passed along to their children. They taught us to be dependable. They taught us that if you are assigned a task or a kuleana, then you show up and you work hard for as long as it takes. The value of hard work was their humble legacy to us children.

When I reflect on this legacy, I realize how honorable is that characteristic – to hana (labor) honestly with effort, integrity and dignity. Our work, whether at home, at our job, or in the community, becomes our legacy. Thus, the quality of that work, good or bad, contributes to the foundation that those who come after us will have to build upon. If such is the case, shouldn’t we always work hard, be industrious, and strive for excellence?

In moʻolelo, the menehune are known for being industrious workers who could complete large, complex building projects in a single night. One of the projects for which they are credited is Alakoko Fishpond on Kauaʻi – indeed, Alakoko’s nickname is “Menehune Fishpond.”

Built along the Hulēʻia River, the fishpond is enclosed by a rock wall that is a half-mile long. At places, the river is 10 feet deep. Such is the quality of its construction that the fishpond wall still stands solid despite 600 years of floods and hurricanes, and a century of disuse and neglect.

In this issue of Ka Wai Ola, we highlight the efforts of nonprofit Mālama Hulēʻia, the stewards of Alakoko since 2017. They have taken on the arduous task of removing acres of invasive mangrove trees that had overgrown the fishpond and was choking out the river and estuary. Their vision is to restore the fishpond and surrounding area to abundance and beyond that, to create a place where the next generation and those who follow can learn and carry this ʻike forward. In this way, they are building upon the work that began 600 years ago.

Continuing to shine the spotlight this month on the island of Kauaʻi, we learn about the work of OHA grantee Kūkulu Kumuhana o Anahola and we meet Kauaʻi Kumu Hula Leināʻala Pavao Jardin whose hard work paid off when her hālau took top honors at Merrie Monarch this year.

“Aia ke ola i ka hana; Life is in labor.”

Sylvia M. Hussey, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer