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Be a Hero And Give Time: Volunteer Week Offers Chance to Make a Difference, Big or Small

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It’s the perfect time to make a small, or big, difference in someone’s life.

Organized by Kanu Hawaii, Volunteer Week Hawai‘i 2022 that kicks off next week is aiming for unprecedented unity of kama‘aina and visitors alike as Hawai‘i emerges from the pandemic. More than 10,000 volunteers are anticipated to gather in support of hundreds of charities at more than 250 events held statewide.

And you can still take part in the statewide endeavor to lend a hand and give back.

Hawai‘i has held the largest annual celebrations of National Volunteer Week since it joined the national movement in 2018.

“It is absolutely inspiring in every facet and it brings joy as the day comes to a close,” one volunteer described the essence of giving. “It is something that transforms time.” Photos and videos courtesy Kanu Hawai’i

“Volunteer Week Hawai‘i is all of our kuleana,” Gov. David Ige said about the program that was instituted under President Richard Nixon in 1974. “It will offer one of the wisest investments we can make in our community, our people and our local values. We hope that all of Hawai‘i will get involved. Together, we can inspire youth with our actions to share community responsibility.”

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Called Volunteer Week Hawai‘i locally, service events are planned to support a broad spectrum of community needs.

The week-long celebration will be held from April 17-23 and features hundreds of in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities statewide including a pledge drive and E Ala Ē, a worldwide oli (Hawaiian chant) on Earth Day, which is Friday, April 22.

But no matter how big or small the time donated, every bit can make a lasting impact, both on the giver and the receiver.

Juan Espinal, a teacher at Konawaena Elementary School, has been taking part in the event for the last 10 years. This year, he is helping the organization in an official capacity coordinating communications. In previous years, he simply volunteered for the cause, which was always rewarding by its own right.

“I’m excited to sink my teeth into it in my official capacity,” he said.

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Espinal is helping with communications this year, but also managed to record a series of podcasts on Maestros Vibe about water conservation in the state. Maestros Vibe is a podcast created by Hawai‘i educators for Hawai‘i educators. Volunteering can be just like that, Espinal pointed out, contributing things that align with your own passions and schedule, like recording podcasts to better inform on important topics. They don’t always have to be massive cleanups or labor-intensive projects.

“People can always do something in their own selves,” Espinal said.

It can be hard to donate time, however, which is life’s most precious commodity, the veteran teacher acknowledged. But, on the other side of that commitment can come the most rewarding sensation of having helped, a satisfaction so gratifying, it can feel like bliss.

“It is absolutely inspiring in every facet and it brings joy as the day comes to a close,” Espinal described the essence of giving. “It is something that transforms time.”

There are lots of events to take part in, big or small.

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On Earth Day E Ala Ē, thousands will join hands around the world and raise awareness of environmental stewardship with a sunrise oli, or sacred chant, at 6:06 a.m. emanating from Maui’s Haleakala in which worldwide participants can attend. To participate from your location and learn more, contact [email protected] or visit KanuHawaii.org/e-ala-e-2022/

Pledge to Our Keiki is where supporters are asked to sign the online “Pledge to Our Keiki” as their first act of service during Volunteer Week Hawai‘i.

Volunteers get to work in Lydgate Park on Kaua’i.

In a partnership, the Hawai‘i State Department of Education and Kanu Hawai‘i have teamed together to collect 10,000 pledge signatures from public school students and their families by Earth Day 2022 towards their 50,000-signature goal by 2023. Pledge takers vow greater responsibility in environmental stewardship through personal actions.

To sign the online pledge, the public can go here: PledgeToOurKeiki.org

Groups, businesses and individuals are needed to mobilize signature drives for the online pledge as part of Volunteer Week Hawai‘i. The pledge was created by a collaboration of students from across the state.

Funding is provided by Hawai‘i Tourism Authority through the community enrichment program. Partnerships include the State of Hawaii and all of Hawaii’s county governments along with the business and nonprofit sectors.

Find us on Instagram and Facebook and use hashtag #volunteerweekhawaii for all social posts. Contact [email protected] for more info.

Groups and organizations can go to VolunteerWeekHawaii.org to register an event or participate in an existing one. Businesses are needed to encourage employee participation, donate in-kind and financially. Opportunities during the week range from park and beach cleanups to food drives to lo‘i and loko i‘a restoration.

Tom Hasslinger
Tom Hasslinger is a journalist who lives in Kailua-Kona. Prior to joining Big Island Now, he worked as the managing editor for West Hawaii Today and deputy editor for The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. He's worked for over 15 years as a reporter for the Oahu-based Civil Beat news outlet, as well as in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho and Douglas Wyoming.
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