An Emphasis on Grassroots Engagement

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Keoni Souza: Trustee At-Large

Mahalo to the wonderful residents of Molokaʻi and Kauaʻi for welcoming me this past month on my official site visits in my capacity as OHA Trustee At-Large.

It has been my promise to travel throughout the State of Hawaiʻi to visit and talk-story with our beneficiaries and residents of each island. We are full steam ahead with implementing our grassroots efforts.

Mahalo to Uncle Walter Ritte for the site visit to Keawanui Fishpond, to Keani Rawlins-Fernandez for taking time out to meet with us, and to everyone who attended our meet and greet session on Molokaʻi.

We had important conversations regarding DHHL homesteads, repairs, loan qualifications, medical/healthcare needs, sustainable agriculture, food programs, drug abuse, inter-island travel woes, skills training, and kūpuna services. Everyone was welcomed to share their thoughts and I enjoyed listening to their stories and manaʻo.

Second, mahalo to Trustee Dan Ahuna and his beautiful ʻohana for showing us around the island of Kauaʻi. We enjoyed our visits to Anahola, Kanuikapono Public Charter School, Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), and also Alakoko Fishpond where it was great to reunite with my old friend, Peleke Flores, the director of operations at Mālama Hulēʻia. I’ll be back again in the near future to hold a meet and greet on Kauaʻi as well.

It has been interesting as a new Trustee to listen to community concerns and hear that many of you would like to know more about what OHA does for our beneficiaries.

OHA makes decisions regarding many areas of the Native Hawaiian community mainly through funding. OHA funds many of the programs you see in your community today. In 2022, we gave out $11 million in grants, $161,000 in sponsorships, and $1.5 million in loans to our beneficiaries.

Here is a list of some of the organizations in your communities that were awarded OHA grants in 2022: Big Island Substance Abuse Council; Kupu; Hālau o Huluena; Kūkulu Kumuhana o Anahola; Adult Friends for Youth; Aloha Week Festival; Hāna Arts; Ka Laʻi a ʻEhu; Kaikeha; Ke Ao Haliʻi; Laʻiʻōpua; Nā Mamo o Mūʻolea; Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation (ODKF) Support, Inc.; Educational Services Hawaiʻi Foundation; Hoʻokākoʻo Corporation; Department of Hawaiian Homelands; Honolulu Habitat for Humanity; Papa Ola Lōkahi; Waimea Hawaiian Homesteaders Association; Alu Like; Kanu o ka ʻĀina Learning ʻOhana; as well as 17 Hawaiian-focused public charter schools.

I will continue to stay rooted in our communities to understand the needs of our people right where they live, work, and play. I look forward to my continued travels across the State of Hawai’i and will keep you posted as to my visit schedule. Mahalo.