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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, June 17, 2001

Scholarship a testament of hope

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Staff Writer

Raising a brown hand gnarled and stunted by Hansen's disease, Makia Malo began to chant in Hawaiian as the modest front door of a Mililani townhouse swung open.

At his Mililani home, Paul Kaiwi receives a hug from Ann Malo as Makia Malo looks on. Paul is the recipient of the first Makia and Ann Malo scholarship.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

"E kahea ana au ia 'oe..." His voice resonated in the steaming afternoon heat.

'Eia no au me ka kahi makana nau...."

"I am calling you.... Here I am with a gift for you..."

A stunned Paul Kaiwi Jr. threw the door open farther, and his four young children crowded out with him, wide-eyed with curiosity.

Then, with a dozen bobbing balloons, tears, a framed certificate, leis and hearts full of love, the famed Kalaupapa storyteller and his wife, Ann, presented their first modest scholarship to a young Hawaiian medical student struggling to raise a family and finish school.

"It's not much," said Ann a little later of the $1,500 presentation, but Kaiwi swept her words away with his smiles.

"Oh... oh... mahalo... ," he said, suddenly comprehending what was happening.

"Wow, I feel honored."

It was an equally emotional moment for Malo, 66, who had been taken from his family at 12 and confined in the Hansen's disease colony at Kalaupapa on Moloka'i until he was in his late 30s. Though he went blind and lost the feeling in his hands during this time, he was witness to the death of his younger brother and innumerable friends there. The scholarship he created to honor them is a testament to hope, survival and the human spirit.

"I carry those ghosts with me," he said.

Public may add to scholarship
 •  The Makia and Ann Malo Scholarship Fund is administered through the Hawai'i Community Foundation. Contributions from the public will be accepted so that more than one student can receive money each year.

Contributions may be made by writing to: Hawai'i Community Foundation, 900 Fort Street Mall, Suite 1300, Honolulu, HI 96813.

As Kaiwi and Malo stood together on the porch, Malo's distorted fingers resting on the younger man's shoulder, Ann Malo's eyes filled with tears.

"Makia never had the chance to have children," she said. "This scholarship was going to be funded by interest from our estate after our deaths, but I said, 'No, you deserve to see these kids get it now.'"

Although Malo was one of the first who chose to leave Kalaupapa for higher education "on the outside" after sulfa drugs in the 1960s brought the disease under control, he returns regularly to stand over his brother's grave and visit the few who remain on the secluded and remote peninsula, now owned by the National Park Service.

It took Malo seven years to get a degree. Without feeling in his fingers he couldn't read books in Braille, so he memorized course notes with audiotapes. Though he wanted to be a teacher, self-consciousness about his appearance kept him from feeling comfortable in a classroom. He finally found his voice as a storyteller.

"I used to hide my hands or stick them in my pockets," he said, "but then I got into community theater and the Artists-in-the-Schools program. Now I stand up on the stage and I am what I am. I also had a friend tell me, 'No let other people's hangups stop you from doing what you want.'"

Ann Malo added: "The main thing he wants to say to these kids is 'Stand on my shoulders and go higher, and bring the next generation along.'"

Kaiwi has already taken those words to heart.

Raised in remote Kipahulu and Hana on Maui, the 31-year-old fourth-year medical student plans to return to the community of his childhood to offer consistent medical care in a rural area now served by rotating doctors. And he hopes to make an impact on the lifestyle diseases that send many Native Hawaiians to premature deaths.

"Both of my grandmothers died within 10 months of each other," he wrote in a personal essay for the scholarship. "In both cases the causes were identical. Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease all contributed to massive strokes that left both in comas with brain death."

Preventive medicine could have made a difference, he said. And though he was raised on a Spam-rich diet — the same thing his family still eats — he hopes to not just administer good medicine, but good health by encouraging the healthier "Wai'anae diet" of Dr. Terry Shintani.

Kaiwi also will combine the Native Hawaiian healing techniques of la'au lapa'au (herbal medicine) and lomi lomi massage with his Western training. As a boy he was trained by his father, Paul Kaiwi Sr., and grandfather, Adam Kaiwi, in the herbal medicine of ancient Hawai'i, and is now helping train other University of Hawai'i medical students in it.

A medicinal Hawaiian garden now grows in the courtyard of UH's John A. Burns School of Medicine, and a new generation of medical students of all cultural backgrounds is becoming familiar with native plant-based medicines.

"We want to get the medical students more familiar with the plants," said Kaiwi, "to work with patients instead of saying to them, 'Stop that.'"

Beyond that, Kaiwi said he wants to practice a new kind of medicine.

"When I use the term 'help'," he wrote in his scholarship essay, "I don't mean to stitch up a person or give out medicine, but to provide a positive atmosphere where a patient will feel a sense of being healed — regardless of having a health problem solved or not. This is Hawaiian medicine."