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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 10, 2006

ADVERTISER CHRISTMAS FUND
Nine children a struggle for Palolo Valley couple

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Help our neighbors in need

By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer

HOW TO DONATE

Send checks, payable to The Advertiser Christmas Fund, to: Helping Hands Hawai'i, P.O. Box 17780, Honolulu, HI 96817. Helping Hands will accept credit-card donations by phone at 440-3831. Monetary donations may also be dropped off at any First Hawaiian Bank branch or The Advertiser's information desk. Monetary donations help operate Community Clearinghouse programs year-round.

Material goods can be taken to the Community Clearinghouse, 2100 N. Nimitz Highway, near Pu'uhale Road. For large-item pickup and additional information, call 440-3804.

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Imagine keeping up with nine children attempting to remember their latest likes and dislikes, sorting through personalities, tempers. Imagine trying to give each child special attention while running a household on poverty wages and working the graveyard shift as an office janitor.

Those demands leave a 34-year-old Palolo Valley mother with little time for personal reflection, much less peace and quiet.

"Sometimes, it's kind of hard for me to try to fit in everything for everybody," she said. "I don't remember a day I was with myself."

But she says her life has its rewards: Her children are healthy and happy, and they make do with what they have. The family doesn't have money to spend on furniture or beds, much less wall hangings and posters. So, the children draw pictures and put them up on their walls.

And the woman's youngest, who is 2, sometimes uses the wall as his canvas.

Before Christmas, the family will re-paint the walls in their home and do extra cleaning to make everything look spotless. It's a holiday tradition for them, designed to get everyone working together.

"All the kids have chores," the mother said.

The mother, who asked not to be identified, was born in Tonga and grew up in California. She moved to the Islands with her parents in 1992, and had two children. Later, she met her husband and married. He adopted her two kids and the couple had seven of their own.

The family used to live in Wai'anae, but moved closer to town for work and easier access to church. For a few months, they were homeless because they couldn't find a place big enough. The mother said they were forced to stay with family, taking up a corner in a house or sleeping in their mini-van. They moved into a Palolo housing complex in 2003.

The father in the family works as a janitor at a church. During the day, the woman takes care of her younger children. She starts her job as an office cleaner at 9:30 p.m. and gets off by 2:30 a.m.

"Sometimes it's hard," the woman said. "We manage day by day."

The family gets no government assistance, and stretches their small income as far as possible. They rarely buy new things, but the mom said her children don't mind being outfitted out of thrift shops.

The family would appreciate any donated furniture, including dressers, chairs and a sofa. They also have no beds, and could use new or used mattresses, box springs and frames or bunk beds.

The children would also appreciate toys or books. Though the family can't afford a Christmas tree, they do enjoy exchanging small gifts during the holidays.

The oldest child is a 15-year-old boy. He wears a 34-inch waist and large shirts. He has seven younger sisters: ages 13 (size 14 and medium in girls clothes), 10 (size 12 and medium in girls clothes), 9 (size 10 and small in girls clothes), 8 (size 8 and small in girls clothes), 5-year-old twins (both in size 7 and small in girls clothes), and 3 (size 4T). The baby in the family, a 2-year-old boy, wears 3T.

Reach Mary Vorsino at mvorsino@honoluluadvertiser.com.