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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kanu Hawaii issues 'Kuleana' awards

Advertiser Staff

Kanu Hawaii, a grassroots movement “drawing on island strengths to make the state a model of environmental sustainability, economic resilience and compassionate community” is marking its second anniversary this month.

As part of its “birthday celebration,” Kanu is presenting “Kuleana Awards” to six individuals who have “inspired change in others and in their community through their own demonstrations of kuleana,” defined by the non-profit group as “courageous acts of responsibility-taking and leadership by example, even when the required change seems beyond the ability of one person to achieve alone.”
Kanu today issued the following statements about the recipients of the 2010 awards.

  • Jack and Kim Johnson

    “As a team, Jack and Kim model stewardship, compassion, and living lightly on the earth. They live a simple lifestyle, eat from their own garden, and devote lots of quality time to their children and their North Shore community. Jack’s music has introduced people around the world to island values of environmental stewardship and aloha, and profits from his tours support local and global environmental work. Kim has worked tirelessly to build the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation into a local institution that is committed, as she is, to positive, empowering approaches that educate keiki and build a more eco-conscious community.”

  • Annie Heslinga

    “Annie has been coordinating student and Kanu volunteers at the Ka 'Ohu Hou O Manoa Transitional Shelter for Homeless Women and Children since Kanu Hawai‘i’s Live Aloha Campaign last July. Annie has been to the shelter every Sunday since Live Aloha Day almost a year ago, has formed a ‘Live Aloha’ Group at 'Iolani School where she is a sophomore, and has recruited students from grades 10-12 to volunteer at least one Sunday a month to take care of keiki at the shelter while the mothers have their weekly house meetings. She organized a Thanksgiving dinner in which she and her family had a potluck dinner with the mothers to build relationships and connect as friends. The relationships she has built with the mothers and children at the Salvation Army Shelter embody the commitment and compassion we hope to see in island-style leaders.”

  • Olin Lagon

    “Olin is a world-class entrepreneur who has started more than a dozen companies, several of which have attracted venture capital investment to the islands, and some of which have grown to large national and international organizations with hundreds of employees. His talents could place him in a variety of engineering and executive positions, but Olin has committed himself to social entrepreneurship – using his ideas and business skills in the service of communities. He actively experiments with growing his own food, explores aquaponics and energy efficiency, and has made his house into a zero-energy-consuming home. He buys his clothes from Savers, drove a bio-diesel car (until an uncle recently moved away and left a different car with Olin). Every day he devotes a few hours in the afternoon and early evening to spending time with his boys, and walking the neighborhood with them, picking up litter and stopping to talk to neighbors.”

  • Melissa Matsubara

    Melissa uses her skills of empathy and listening to connect with people from all walks of life and all communities. When it became clear that Kanu Hawai‘i needed a way for members to connect with each other offline, Melissa volunteered to host a weekly pau hana. When Kanu launched a campaign to educate people about reducing waste during the Holidays, she came up with the idea of a Green Wrapping Station at Ala Moana Center as a way to make a statement about cutting down on waste during the holidays in a way that allowed us to “be the change” we were asking others to consider.

  • Brent Kakesako

    “When Kanu was planning the Live Aloha Campaign in the spring of 2009, Brent said he wanted to try to lead a service project. He understood the scope of the challenge – these were not to be ordinary service projects – instead, they were supposed to challenge people to step across boundaries, connect with others who are normally kept at a distance by social or economic divides, and build lasting relationships with them. Brent spearheaded the effort at the Salvation Army Shelter for Women & Children in Manoa and recruited dozens of volunteers who later described the experience as “moving” and “magical.” Not only did Brent succeed in creating a project that got people to step across normal social divides, he also deliberately developed community leadership, empowering his cousin Annie to step forward and try her hand at organizing and sustaining the effort.”

  •  Alice Greenwood

    “Alice is a respected kupuna from the Waianae Coast of O‘ahu. Alice helps lead efforts for environmental and social justice, educating those in and outside of Waianae about the special strengths and challenges in her community. Alice was homeless for a time, living in a tent at Ma‘ili Beach Park on O‘ahu. While living at the beach she noticed homeless keiki playing in the filthy public bathrooms. Heartbroken, she started waking up at 4 a.m. to clean the facilities herself. Others living at the park were cynical at first, but after a month of watching Greenwood clean the bathrooms every day, they joined in. Other women living at the park started getting up early to help, and the men took up posts at the bathroom entrance, hosing off people’s feet to keep the bathrooms clean. Alice changed people around her by her example and her self sacrifice. That is the island-style leadership and activism that Kanu strives for.”

    For additional information about the organization, visit www.kanuhawaii.org.