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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 8, 2001

Kids Day
PACT helped troubled mother kick drugs, regain children

 •  What is Parents and Children Together?

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Staff Writer

Lehua Rosa doesn't resemble the person she describes. She's professional, poised, articulate. Her eyes are clear and her voice is strong and deep as she talks about her past in very blunt terms: drug addict, homeless, convicted felon. Looking at her now, it's hard to reconcile the person she is with the way she used to live.

Lehua Rosa turned a life of drugs, homelessness and crime into one of hope with her children Hoku, 4 (front), Kepa, 7, and Koa, 2.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

The low point was when Child Protective Services showed up at her place with the police and took her children away.

"That was my wake-up call," she says. "My choice was I could do drugs or I could have my children back."

Lehua put herself in a treatment program and eventually proved to CPS that she was sober and stable.

She came to PACT when her children were enrolled in the Head Start and Early Head Start program at Kuhio Park Terrace. The program offers early-education classes for kids of low-income parents. It also encourages parents to be active in the planning and administration of the classes and provides adult education for them as well.

"PACT changed my life. It changed the lives of my children," she says.

She watched with gratitude as her three kids blossomed through Head Start. When a position in the Head Start office opened, she knew she didn't fit the qualifications, but, being so enamored of the program, she applied anyway.

"I have lots of college, but I didn't have any office experience. They gave me a chance when no one else would."

Lehua has been receptionist and secretary in the office for nearly two years, and the work has given her confidence. She and her family started this year off welfare and out of the projects. Their goal is to become homeowners. Thanks to PACT's Economic Development Center and the leveraged-savings program, meeting that goal is a real possibility. Lehua is already taking a homebuyer's course. "This is my driving passion. I spend my lunches on the Internet looking for things that can help me. I know all we can afford is a fixer-upper townhouse in 'Ewa Beach or Pearl City, but I'm fine with that."

She talks about her family with pride, saying they're strong and healthy and focused, and she gives much of the credit to PACT.

"We did the work to get our lives back, but PACT gave us confidence and set us on the path.

"If I can change my life, for myself and for my family, anybody can. That's what PACT is all about."