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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, July 25, 2003

Wai'anae Coast takes stand against drugs

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

WAI'ANAE — More than 300 people attended an anti-drug meeting in Wai'anae last night, the largest gathering of its kind since an anti-drug campaign began to spread across O'ahu in March.

Maysana Lopes, of Wai'anae, spoke out against drugs at the Wai'aiane community town meeting last night. More than 300 area residents attended the gathering.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

Before the meeting about 600 residents from Nanakuli to Makaha lined Farrington Highway, taking their message to drug users and dealers.

"Melt the Ice," "Drug Free Zone" and "Let Jesus Melt the Ice," read some of the signs, and the honking and shaka signs from passing motorists reinforced the message.

Sign waver and Nanakuli resident Jesse Kealoha, 37, said Wai'anae has a reputation for criminal activity, including drug use and violence, but the turnout showed the other side of the community.

"We are good people and we want more of them," Kealoha said. "I want a drug-free environment for our young ones."

Recovering drug user Val Auelua, 32, said Wai'anae must root out drugs for the children's sake. Children as young as 12 are being offered drugs, and Auelua said she is fearful for them.

Wai'anae, like many communities, is coming to grips with the ravages of drug use, especially with crystal methamphetamine, or ice, which has taken a toll on families, businesses and neighborhoods. People have been afraid to speak out against users who are emboldened by drugs and intimidating to neighbors. But now with communities banding together, residents are finding they can stand up.

"One of every four families on the Wai'anae Coast has somebody using ice," said Wai'anae Coast drug counselor Chris Reis-Naki before the meeting began. "The big turnout shows we're trying to make a difference."

Residents were given an opportunity to speak from their hearts to federal, state and city officials:

• Kaipo Pomaikai, 51, said the community has to take the lead by joining neighborhood watches, taking down licenses and turning dealers in. "I'm sick and tired of the west side being used as a drug store," he said.

• William Aila, 45, said one thing he would like to do is picket the three stores on the Wai'anae Coast that sell drug paraphernalia.

• Norma Kiehn, 59, said her son is a drug user who after relapsing three times is again going into treatment. "This is one of the highest drug trafficking areas and we cannot solve this problem alone," she said. "But by community effort we can let the wheelers and dealers know that we are taking back our parks, beaches and streets."

• Tory Winward, once a star high school athlete, said he was hooked in the blink of an eye at age 20 and was arrested 89 times before "they threw away the key." Clean for 10 years, he said he turned his life around in prison and that if he could beat drugs anyone can.

The anti-drug gatherings marked the first time the Wai'anae Coast communities have worked together for a common goal, said Patty Teruya, one of the organizers of the events. Churches, service providers, businesses, government and residents have joined to fight back, she said.

"The energy that they put in is powerful," Teruya said. "It's not just making a today statement. The process is going to be long, but we will continue to work to get drugs out of our community."

The communities have formed a group called Pa'i, which means to spank, to fight the drug problems, she said.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.