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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dancer takes lead in keeping beaches clean

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

HAWAI'I KAI — What do beach cleanups and Asian Pacific dance have in common? It's Suzanne Frazer, a transplanted Australian who has made it her personal mission to help others.

During the six years Frazer has been studying dance at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, she has volunteered more than 7,000 hours — more than 290 days — to help beautify beaches, innovate classroom instruction and step up the social dancing scene.

"I've always been into volunteering," said Frazer, of Hawai'i Kai. "When you volunteer, you don't set out to be recognized."

Even so, her efforts recently were recognized by the University of Hawai'i Graduate Student Organization, which named Frazer as a recipient of the Graduate Student Award for Excellence. The award includes a $2,000 cash prize.

"It's nice to be recognized for making a difference, but really, it's about seeing a need and going out and helping. Hopefully, my work will inspire others to help out in the community," Frazer said. "This shows me that one person's actions can make a difference."

Michael Kimmitt, a fellow graduate student who nominated Frazer, said he was most impressed with Frazer's efforts to persuade Zanzabar Night Club in Waikiki to establish a smoke-free Latin Night well before any state smoking ban took effect.

With a petition signed by club-goers, "she was able to demonstrate that there was a demand for smoke-free nights in the bars," Kimmitt said. "People were willing to go out, but the bars were resistant to this. Suzanne persuaded the bar to take the risk and to give it a try, and once they were successful, she helped them maintain it."

Richard Boersema, chief operating officer at Zanzabar, said the bottom line wasn't hurt by smoke-free nights and that's why the bar agreed to continue them. The trial lasted three months, Frazer said. From there, Frazer produced Latin Dance Night _ a smoke-free, alcohol-free, all ages dance event _ at the Atherton YMCA in M¬anoa for nearly three years. It is still being held today, but by someone else.

In addition to organizing smoke-free dancing nights, Frazer, 39, started cleanup efforts on Windward beaches, led seminars for teachers on classroom instruction through dance and has worked with university administrators to address concerns of graduate students.

The beach cleanups started because Frazer enjoys the beach and she wanted to walk along the beach for an hour without seeing any rubbish. She started to bring bags with her to collect the trash, and then it mushroomed into organized cleanups.

She formed BEACH, Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawai'i, to organize beach cleanups using college, high school, state, city and military volunteers. Her first beach was Sherwood in Waimanalo, where she spent two months cleaning the sand of debris.

"We used to target beaches that were neglected, those owned by the state, used by the military and operated by the city," Frazer said. "We transformed that whole beach from a garbage dump to a beautiful beach."

The group has moved on to Sandy Beach, Makapu'u, Bellows, Castles in Kailua and Waimanalo Beach Park.

"At the beaches we've cleaned up, the sand is clean," Frazer said. "People now want to use the beach."

Frazer grew up in Australia and was a dance teacher there before arriving in the Islands to pursue graduate studies in Asian/Pacific dance forms. She plans to finish her dissertation and return to Australia where she will incorporate her Hawai'i experiences into her teaching.

"My goal is to make it more meaningful to the students in Australia," Frazer said. "Dance helps people develop more self-esteem."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.

• Correction: Hawai'i Kai resident Suzanne Frazer, a University of Hawai'i graduate student, organized two Latin Dance Night events. One was a three-month trial, no longer under way, at Zanzabar Night Club. The other is currently in place at the Atherton YMCA in Manoa.