Men of Pa‘a Mālama ‘Aina in Ho‘okena
Members of a Puna nonprofit organization went to work Saturday morning, May 1, in helping to restore a piece of land in Ho‘okena after a structure fire destroyed a home on the lot last year.
The Men of Pa‘a joined the property owner Priscilla Basque and Maggie Kahoilua with Vibrant Hawai‘i to clean up the parcel, which sits next to Ho‘okena Beach Park. The Men of Pa‘a is a reintegration program for men caught up in the justice system and struggle with alcohol and substance abuse. Founded in Puna, they have established themselves in Hilo and expanded into Kohala. Organization founder Iopa Maunakea has the vision to establish working in all areas of the Big Island doing ‘aina-based stewardship.
“We are blessed with the Men of Pa‘a to clean up the lot and plant some food, possibly create some food security for Ho‘okena,” Basque told Big Island Now on Saturday.
While island music filled the sky, the men and women worked Saturday to clear the site of large rocks and weeds. They raked along the property lines to lay fresh dirt to plant ti-leaves. They also had plans to put in banana, ulu, ‘olena and other local specialty crops.
“We are bringing this place back to life, breathing our hā back into the ‘aina and it’s so rewarding,” Basque said. “I’m so grateful to have all the hands that are here today helping us create food security and create educational grounds for visitors who come to Ho‘okena.”
Basque explained her father built a house for her mother on the lot. However, last September the home burned to the ground. Kahoilua, co-chair of Vibrant Hawai‘i’s community resilience hubs, introduced Basque to the Puna group while working on Vibrant Hawai‘i’s Haleki‘i resilience hub project.
Kahoilua got to know the Men of Pa‘a through their work and partnership in North Kohala at 1 Heart Hub, where they tend the Dragon Heart Farms in Hawī. With the nonprofit’s mission of healing through mālama ‘aina, Kahoilua saw an opportunity for the group to continue their service through tending the land in Ho‘okena.
“There’s a continuous flow of folks coming in (to Men of Pa‘a) to get into the work, to heal through the connection of the land, to bring back that connection of native intelligence and the ahupua‘a mindset of working ocean to the mountains,” Kahoilua said. “Everyone can find a place in there.”
In the future, Kahoilua and Basque see the Ho‘okena site as a place that provides some basic needs to the community as well as an educational tool to teach those who come to the area about mālama ‘aina.
“It’s using this lot as something that honors her family and her father’s memory along with serving the community in the unique ways that Ho‘okena offers,” Kahoilua said.
Two years ago, Maunakea began working with Vibrant Hawai‘i’s resilience hubs to harness and pool resources in an effort to connect the hubs. The hubs are part of a growing island-wide network inspired and supported by Vibrant Hawai’i in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a recognized need to be better prepared for natural and man-made emergencies as well as food sustainability.
“The idea behind this project (in Ho‘okena) is to make this property green with food,” Maunakea said. “It’s not to feed the army, it’s mainly to turn this place into a green oasis.”
Maunakea’s brother, Kapoli, also volunteers with the Men of Pa‘a.
“We are making Big Island better one piece at a time, one kane at a time,” Kapoli Maunakea said. “Our program is basically taking kane or wahine, who have battled some issues, and take them and give them a sense of purpose, especially in this service arena.”
Kapoli Maunakea described the Men of Pa‘a as an expert labor force with a great leader, Iopa Maunakea.
“When you help people who help people, to me, it’s all pono it’s all correct,” Kapoli Maunakea said. “It’s exactly what people should be doing, especially when it comes to sustainability.”