Honolulu Advertiser.com, Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Mao benefit helps youth reap college scholarships
By Lauren Chang
WAIANAE - Mao Organic Farms in Waianae is once again inviting the community to an evening of great food and entertainment during its fourth annual Mao Ma Town fundraiser scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 20.
The event will be held at Downtown@the HiSAM restaurant, located within the Hawaii State Museum, from 6 to 9 p.m. Proceeds will help fund college scholarships at Leeward Community College (LCC) for 27 youth from the Waianae Coast.
"We really believe in these kids," said Summer Shimabukuro, director of education at Mao Organic Farms. "I'd say over 90 percent of them will be the first generation to ever attend college, so these kids are really trying to break the cycle and serve as good role models for their younger siblings. It's very inspiring."
Even more uplifting is the fact that the youths are not expecting a free ride. All individuals must complete a rigorous 11-week summer program, which includes working at the farm, as well as attending a skills building and Hawaiian studies course at LCC. For their efforts, the youth will not only receive a college internship, but also a monthly $500 stipend.
"The kids basically take part in every part of the process here at our farm," said Shimabukuro, adding that the majority of the youth are Waianae and Nanakuli High graduates. "They work 17 hours a week in the hot sun, and do everything from planting and weeding to harvesting, preparing the beds and packing.
"They also participate in our Farmers' Market on Saturdays in Makaha and at Kapiolani Community College, and help mentor school children," she continued. "So the idea is to build them up as leaders."
The fundraiser, which began in 2005 at Town restaurant in Kaimuki, generally draws in about 150 people. This year, they're expecting a similar turnout at the Downtown restaurant, which, like Town, is run by longtime Mao supporter chef/owner Ed Kenney.
"On top of sending kids to college, our mission is working toward community food security - the idea of Hawaii being able to grow its own food and support itself," Shimabukuro said. "We're only one part of the equation, and that's farming, and the other part are the restaurants and chefs, because if they don't buy into supporting local and organic, then we've got no customers.
"Town and Downtown restaurants have always been a huge supporter of Mao. I've heard stories of when Mao first began and were just growing radishes, and they'd buy it all up," said Shimabukuro, laughing. "They're just that supportive."
Ticket cost is $125, which is tax deductible. Table sponsorships are also available at the $2,000 and $5,000 levels.
According to Shimabukuro, the organization is hoping to raise an upward of $40,000, which would cover a full year's tuition for the 27 youths.
For more information, call Shimabukuro at 696-5569 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monetary donations may be mailed to Mao Organic Farms, earmarked Youth Leadership Training, P.O. Box 441, Waianae, HI 96792.