This past Sunday, February 28, Kanu celebrated its achievements with members, friends and supporters at the Waimanalo Hawaiian Home Association Community Center.
As part of the celebration, Kanu Hawaii awarded seven individuals whose lives and work embody the change we seek with our first annual Kanu Hawaii Kuleana Awards. The purpose of these awards is to help define a new standard of island-style leadership – one that focuses less on achievements, and more on how one leads – highlighting real people who practice activism rooted in humility, aloha, and kuleana.
I am proud to let everyone know that one of the awardees was Aunty Alice Greenwood!
Alice Greenwood is a respected kupuna from the Waianae Coast of Oahu. Alice helps lead efforts for environmental and social justice, educating those in and outside of Waianae about the special strengths and challenges of her community. Alice was homeless for a time, living in a tent at Maili Beach Park on Oahu. While living there she noticed homeless keiki playing in the filthy public bathrooms. Heartbroken, she started waking up at four a.m. to clean the facilities from top-to-bottom herself. Others living at the park were cynical at first, but after a month of watching Greenwood clean the bathrooms every day, they joined in. Other women got up early to help, and the men took up posts at the bathroom entrance, hosing off people’s feet to keep the bathrooms clean. Alice changed people around her by her example and her self-sacrifice. That is the island-style leadership and activism that Kanu Hawai‘i strives for.
The other awardees weree:
Jack & Kim Johnson. As a team, Jack and Kim model stewardship, compassion, and living lightly on the earth. They live a simple lifestyle, eat from their own garden, and devote lots of quality time to their children and their North Shore community. Jack’s music has introduced people around the world to island values of environmental stewardship and aloha. Kim has worked tirelessly to build the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation, which is committed to positive, empowering approaches that educate keiki and build a more eco-conscious community. Their lives remain rooted in stewardship, compassion, and community, despite the pressures of fame.
Brent Kakesako. When Kanu Hawaii was planning its 2009 Live Aloha Campaign, Brent volunteered to lead a service project. He understood the scope of the challenge – these were not to be ordinary service projects – instead, they were supposed to challenge people to step across boundaries, connect with others who are normally kept at a distance by social or economic divides, and build lasting relationships with them. Brent spearheaded the effort at the Salvation Army’s Ka Ohu Hou O Manoa Transitional Shelter for Homeless Women & Children and recruited dozens of volunteers who later described the experience as “moving” and “rewarding.” Not only did Brent succeed in getting people to step across social divides, he also deliberately developed community leadership, empowering his cousin, Annie Heslinga, to try and organize and sustain the effort. Brent’s humility and forethought created the conditions for new leadership to emerge.
Annie Heslinga has been coordinating volunteers at Ka Ohu Hou O Manoa Transitional Shelter since Kanu Hawaii’s Live Aloha Campaign last July. She’s been to the shelter every Sunday since then, has formed a 'Live Aloha' Group at Iolani School where she is a sophomore, and has recruited students to volunteer there at least one Sunday a month. The relationships she has built with the mothers and children at the shelter embody the commitment and compassion we hope to see in island-style leaders. She truly lives aloha.
Olin Lagon is a world-class entrepreneur who has started more than a dozen companies, some of which have grown to large national and international organizations with hundreds of employees. He was named one of Hawaii’s 8 Geniuses by Honolulu Magazine this year. His talents could place him in a variety of engineering and executive positions, but Olin has committed himself to social entrepreneurship – using his ideas and business skills in the service of communities. He experiments with growing his own food, aquaponics and energy efficiency, and has made his house into a zero-energy-consuming home. Every day he devotes a few hours to spending time with his boys, walking the neighborhood, picking up litter and talking with neighbors. Olin is Kanu Hawaii’s Director of Technology and Social Ventures and is the primary developer of Kanu’s web site.
Melissa Matsubara. Melissa uses her skills of empathy and listening to connect with people from all walks of life, and does so with a sense of kuleana. When it became clear that Kanu Hawaii needed a way for members to connect offline, Melissa volunteered to host a weekly pau hana, spurring regular ‘meet ups’ to further engage and grow our movement. When Kanu launched a campaign to educate people about reducing waste during the Holidays, she came up with the idea of a Green Wrapping Station at Ala Moana Center as a way to make a statement about cutting down on waste during the holidays in a way that allowed us to “be the change” we were asking others to consider. She has been a constant volunteer leader, supporting Kanu in all of its varied work with unparalleled energy and kuleana.
Kanu Hawaii is a group of thousands of individuals working to unleash a social movement using island values to build local communities that are more sustainable, compassionate, and self-reliant. For more information about Kanu Hawaii, you can visit them online at www.kanuhawaii.org http://www.kanuhawaii.org