June 21, 2023

Ma Ka Hana Ka `Ike builds youth and strengthens community in Hana

For nearly 25 years, Ma Ka Hana Ka `Ike has been dedicated to empowering Hana youth through vocational training and education, while supporting residents with much-needed service projects in the tight-knit East Maui community.

Established in 2000, Ma Ka Hana Ka `Ike has been steadfast in its mission to offer alternative education pathways and hands-on learning experiences for opportunity youth on the island of Maui. With a focus on construction trades and sustainable agriculture, the organization has positively impacted the lives of young people, equipping them with valuable skills and instilling a sense of purpose.

“With each addition of a new activity, project, program or initiative, we remain rooted in the mission that began in our flagship woodshop 22 years ago,” said Lipoa Kahaleuahi, the organization’s Executive Director. “We ask ourselves, in which ways will we continue to empower and build our youth while providing critical service to our community? Ā laila, hana a me hoʻokō mākou. Then, we commit, fueled by our community and your support. This is who we are today.”

According to the organization’s 2021-2022 annual report, a total of 105 students participated in Ma Ka Hana Ka `Ike's vocational training programs during the academic year. This marked a 15 percent increase from 2020-2021, highlighting the growing demand for the organization's services and the effectiveness of its outreach initiatives.

The organization's vocational training programs continue to make a difference in young lives. Of the graduates who completed the construction trades program last academic year, 80 percent secured gainful employment within a few months of completing their training. This demand for skilled labor underscores the practicality of the curriculum taught by Ma Ka Hana Ka `Ike and the positive impact on the island workforce.

The Building Program has three components: in-school woodshop classes; after-school and intersession employment; and post-high graduate apprenticeships. Each year, approximately 40 high school students and 10 graduate apprentices are engaged through hands-on training in construction projects like home improvements for kupuna and the disabled, alternative energy systems, educational facilities for Hana High and Elementary School and local nonprofits, and other urgent community needs.

Furthermore, the nonprofit supports sustainable agriculture and promotes environmental stewardship. In 2021-2022, Ma Ka Hana Ka `Ike's agricultural program yielded 10,000 pounds of fresh produce, which was distributed to local schools, food banks, and community organizations. This initiative not only provides nutritious food to those in need but also educates young individuals about sustainable farming practices and fosters a deeper connection with the environment.

The Mahele Farm initiative trains farm apprentices, assists with the School Garden program, and hosts semi-weekly community workdays and community events. A fully operational organic farm produces about 2,000 pounds of produce each month, all shared with the community free of charge.

“Mahele Farm teaches youth the `āina wisdom of their elders, creating a spirit of unity and belonging,” according to Ma Ka Hana Ka `Ike's 2021-2022 annual report. 

The Mālama Hāloa program connects youth and their `ohana with traditional Native Hawaiian foods and cultural practices. Activities include weekly ku`i `ai sessions at Hana School during which students and families hand pound taro into traditional pa`i`ai. Program participants have also helped to protect and restore a lo`i kalo ecosystem in Wailua Nui, provided culture-based educational activities for preK-12 students, and led poi board and stone carving workshops.

Kahu `Ai Pono is a culinary program that works with farming operations at Mahele Farm and Mālama Hāloa. Students and apprentices learn skills for processing `āina-based local foods and gain an appreciation for healthy lands needed to cultivate the produce.

The 2021-2022 report provides a comprehensive overview of the organization's dedication to empowering youth and building a brighter future. With its focus on vocational training, sustainable agriculture, and impactful community engagement, the nonprofit is an inspiring model for other organizations seeking to create positive change.

To access the full report and learn more about Ma Ka Hana Ka `Ike's work, visit the website at https://www.hanabuild.org/2122annualreport. The organization is a 501c3 nonprofit operated solely by grants, private donations, and in-kind support. Tax-deductible donations are gratefully accepted at https://www.hanabuild.org/#donate. Website visitors can sign up for email news and updates. The nonprofit also has social media platforms on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo.

Ma Ka Hana Ka `Ike's mailing address is P.O. Box 968, Hana 96713 and the email is kokua@hanabuild.org.

About the author: Brian Perry grew up in Honolulu, graduating from Roosevelt High School and the University of Hawaii. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism, Brian worked for five years at the Pacific Daily News in Agana, Guam. There, he met and married Claudine San Nicolas. In 1990, the couple moved to Maui to work as journalists at The Maui News. In December 2018, Brian left the newspaper to work four years as Director of Communications for Mayor Michael Victorino. Now, Brian and Claudine have established a communications and public relations business, Red Rice Maui LLC.