Category Archives: Press releases

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Aloha Malama O Puna Members,

We want to thank you and send a heartfelt “Mahalo” to you all! We also want to let you know how much we appreciate all your new and continued memberships as well as all your private donations; we couldn’t exist without them. Now, your support is more important than ever as we all meet the challenges of the Covid-19 Pandemic. We are happy to report that we are continuing with restoration and conservation projects in areas identified as critical habitat for various native species and we have thus far, completed (2) lava road recovery projects during the pandemic. Our work here is literally “never done” and will continue, even during a pandemic, as long as it is safe and prudent to do so. Below please find information on how you can continue to provide financial support to Malama O Puna, at no additional cost to you!

Malama O Puna always supports buying local first. However, if you’re shopping on Amazon anyway, you can make a donation to us at no additional cost by using this Amazon Smile link whenever you shop on Amazon. Thank you for continuing to be there for us and for supporting our efforts and service to our community. Please stay safe and stay healthy.

A Hui Hou!

Remembering René

Shared from Celeste Elson, René’s hanai daughter:

On June 29, 2020 René Siracusa, tenacious and passionate community activist and loving Hanai Mother and founder of Malama O’Puna, passed away peacefully and surrounded by loved ones at the age of 82.

René Siracusa was born on May 3, 1938 in New York, NY. She discovered the wonders of Hawaii in the late 1960’s, after traveling the world as she studied Linguistic Anthropology. Though she ultimately abandoned her PHD for political reasons, René put her knowledge of fourteen languages and her Masters degree from UH to great use. Once Pahoà captured her heart, she dedicated half her life to Puna. René was The Grand ‘Ol Dame of Community Service.

To list all the organizations, non-profits, groups, grants, programs, individuals and animals she started or helped would take up too much time and paper to record. She would also say, “It isn’t about me.” René lived a very simple life, off the grid, using candles and hurricane lamps to read by, rain water to bathe with. Rescued animals for company and rescued people for family. A force of nature like no other.

René is survived by her cousins: Kyra, David, Larissa and Michael Ray Robinov. Her hanai sister, Lisa and Mighty Joe Young. Her hanai children: Celeste Elson, Jason Hutchins, Angela Renee Wilmot and Jeffery Robinson; Kehaulani and Andy Pickering; Pua and Thomas Seyfort. Her hanai grandchildren: Cain Footracer, Jackson, Elysia and Ethan.

On June 30th, René was interred in a private ceremony. We hope to have a public celebration of life soon. Please contact Ariel Murphy through Facebook for details.

If René touched your life, please consider a donation in her honor to her preferred charity: Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Or do something for your community, for your neighbor, for an animal in need. Be honest, choose love, stand up for what is good, fair, and just!

Thank you for everything you have given us all, René. You are missed. You have left a very large vacancy for someone with such a small frame. You are a daughter who left the world a better place.

COVID 19 Pandemic Response for Puna

Inside refrigerator truck
Malama O Puna worked with Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder of District 5 on a program entitled “COVID 19 Pandemic Response for Puna”. This program provided 300 large food baskets to households in need while at the same time helping to boost some of the small agricultural businesses in Puna. Distribution of the food took place on Friday, June 26th, and focused on ensuring our kupuna are fed during this trying time. Punachicks Farm, LLC provided 225 chicken packages (thighs, drumsticks, boneless skinless breast, and wings) and 60+ noodle and broth packages. Johnson Family Farms participated by providing fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetable to accompany staples like rice, rolls and other non-perishable food provided by Y Hata & Co. Ryan’s trucking provided a refrigerator container at their Keaau baseyard which was used as the staging site. Many of Puna’s non profit organizations participated in the distribution included Malama O Puna, Bodacious Women, Hui Aloha O Puna Makai, Men of Pa`a and many other groups and individuals.

“We really enjoy working with Councilmember Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder to help families in need at the same time lifting up local small agricultural businesses that are having a hard time operating during this pandemic. It’s a win-win for everyone” offered Eileen O’Hara, who is temporarily acting Executive Director of Malama O Puna as it transitions to new leadership after its long time President, Rene Siracusa, stepped down.

Malama O Puna Donates Land to Ho’oulu Lāhui

Just in time for Christmas, Kua O Ka La Public Charter School will be getting a nice big present to aid in their lava recovery. Puna nonprofit Malama O Puna has just donated its 9.38 acre forested lot in Nanawale Estates to Ho‘oulu Lāhui, the nonprofit that supports Kua O Ka La public charter school. The lot was originally donated to Malama O Puna by Nancy Duff, daughter of the developer of the subdivision, with the proviso that it be used for education and/or recreation. Malama O Puna allowed the land to reforest itself naturally after a wildfire, controlling weeds from time to time, but not really doing anything with it. Its board recently decided to put it to better use.

Kua O Ka La lost its campus to the 2018 lava flow, and its temporary one at Nani Mau Gardens is not in Puna, although its students and staff are mostly based there. Kua O Ka La’s curriculum has a strong focus on Hawaiian culture and biology: the students learn about native plants by propagating them and giving them away to the public every year for Arbor Day. The parcel in Nanawale will now be dedicated to this program and a greenhouse will be built.

MOP president René Siracusa and Ho‘oulu Lāhui president Luika Imaoka executed a memorandum of agreement outlining the mutual understanding of the two nonprofits, and on December 11th signed the Quitclaim Deed at the attorney’s office. The land transfer is now official and the students, who endured the disruption and uncertainty of the natural disaster, will now have a large, beautiful parcel in which to learn, flourish and thrive. Both nonprofits are thrilled about the future for our youth.

International Rat Lungworm Conference

What: 6th International Rat Lungworm Conference
When: January 5-8, 2020
Where: Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, Hilo, HI
Cost: Free and open to the public
Registration & more info at workshop website: The 6th International Workshop on Angiostrongylus and Angiostrongyliasis

Malama O Puna is teaming up with the County of Hawai’i (Council contingency funds from Districts 2, 5, 6, 7, and 9, plus Research & Development grant), UH-Hilo College of Pharmacy, the Hilo Chinese community, and others. Learn about rat lungworm and the latest research so you can help educate others, and protect your family and neighbors.

MOP President Rene Siracusa with exhibit and educational materials promoting the upcoming 6th International Rat Lungworm Conference in January. MOP is acting as the fiscal channel for the event, as many of the grants and donations require a nonprofit for the charitable


On behalf of the organizing committee, chaired by Dr. Susan Jarvi, Malama O Puna is pleased to announce that many of the world’s leading experts will be presenting their research at the upcoming 6th International Workshop on Angiostrongylus and Angiostrongyliasis (Rat Lungworm Disease) at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel on January 5-8, 2020.

Over 230 people from nine countries have registered for the workshop, which will address prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease, as well as its ecology, epidemiology, and education. For Hawai‘i, the Workshop offers a rare opportunity for our clinicians, veterinarians, farmers, government agencies, educators and others to hear first-hand from these pre-eminent researchers, which will help address rat lungworm issues here in Hawai‘i.

We humbly request your consideration in donating to help support this event that is so vital to our islands. Rat lungworm disease has already affected our local economy in the restaurant & food sectors, agricultural industry, and tourism. Moreover, members of our own community — along with visitors, domestic pets, and wildlife — have suffered or are currently suffering from this disease.

We have been pleasantly surprised that registration has exceeded our expectations; however, funds from current sponsorships have been committed for the increasing venue and food costs. To help ensure we can accommodate all participants and that our distinguished, VIP guests (~ 75 people) experience the full aloha spirit of Hawai‘i, we would like to support the items below with your help.

Monetary donations will contribute to:

  • Food costs and conference materials for all participants
  • Fresh flower leis for VIP guests
  • Accommodations at the Hilo Hawaii Hotel for VIP guests
  • A planetarium show at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center & a field trip to Hawai‘i Volcanoes Nat’l Park for VIP guests.

In addition, we would like to provide gift bags with samples of items from local businesses to VIP guests. We welcome donations of samples to fill 75 gift bags (such as sample bags of coffee, chocolates, or other small items). Please coordinate with our team for timing of perishable items.

Several levels of donation are available for your consideration and all donations are tax-deductible.

Please see the sponsorship form (PDF) for details and contact or 808-932-7148 for more information. Thank you for your time and consideration!

Landscaping of Roundabout—it takes a community

Since the completion of the Pahoa Roundabout, it has gone through several iterations, the most recent being a seedy weed garden. Many people in the Puna community have expressed disgust and disapproval of the impression that it made as the entrance to Pahoa and the Puna makai area. So, in typical Puna fashion, the community has stepped up to the plate to address the problem. Here’s how:

Malama O Puna (MOP), an environmental nonprofit, signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Mainstreet Pahoa Assn. (MSPA) to partner on a re-design and landscaping of the roundabout in two phases. The first phase would be just to address the medians (weeding, landscaping and maintenance) and would be spearheaded by MOP. For Phase two, MSPA would hold town meetings to solicit ideas and designs for the central hill, and oversee installation of the final selection. MOP, after several meetings with Donald Smith, then filed a proposal to the State Department of Transportation, which was approved. It also requested funding assistance from Ashley Kierkiewicz (District 4) and Matt Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder (District 5) for Council Contingency Funding; both agreed, and the resulting Resolution was passed unanimously by the County Council. MOP then added the project to its liability insurance policy.

The obvious first step for the medians was weed removal. MSPA put MOP in touch with Youth Challenge, a National Guard program for at-risk youth ages 16-18. The program has 8 core components: academic excellence, life-coping skills, job skills, health and hygiene, responsible citizenship, community service, leadership/followership and physical fitness. Program leaders agreed to arrange for their team to do the initial weeding, with quarterly follow-ups.

MOP then reached out to our Puna community policing officer, Eddie Cardines, to provide safety guidelines for the youth while they worked in the roundabout. He also brought orange traffic cones to alert drivers to the youths’ presence. Fifteen young men and their two leaders, Davis Enriques and Kathy Herring, turned out on Saturday morning, March 23, ready to work. MOP provided safety vests for them, which were partly donated by Hubs Hawaii, Inc. Officer Cardines provided Gatorade and energy bars out of his own pocket. The youth were scheduled to work for four hours, but completed the job in two. The medians are now weed-free and ready for planting.

MOP is now seeking donations of plants which can thrive in full sun. It is also seeking volunteers who would like to plant them. This is a community project, by and for the community, and everyone who contributes in whatever way will be recognized. To either donate or volunteer or both please contact René at We can create more beauty in our beautiful Puna. Mahalo plenty.

Tu B’Shevat Tree Planting in Keau’ohana Native Rainforest

For Immediate Release

Contact for more information:
Rabbi Rachel Short
Cell Phone: 808.557.1252

Ahava ‘Aina joins forces with Malama O Puna to help restore Keau’ohana Forest Reserve in honor of Jewish holiday Tu B’Shevat

Tu B’Shevat is the Jewish festival to celebrate the New Year of the trees. Honoring our agriculture and lunar cycles, this holiday traditionally falls on the 15th in the Hebrew month of Shevat and is celebrated by planting trees, spending time in nature, going barefoot, and eating foods that come from trees. The Ahava ‘Aina congregation joined forces with Malama O Puna to celebrate by giving back to the ‘aina, planting native tree species in Hawaii’s last remaining lowland rainforest, Keau’ohana Forest Reserve. They planted ‘ohe in an effort to help restore this sacred native land. Rabbi Rachel blessed the forest in honor of the holiday and offered a prayer for celebration, restoration, growth and new beginnings. Environmental Specialist, Jaya C. Dupuis, the project coordinator who manages the forest restoration project, educated the Ahava ‘Aina community on native plant species, invasive species, forest restoration, and the many ways we can help our ‘aina to flourish. Jaya conceived the forest restoration and has been the driving force behind the project since 2014.

Volunteers cleared areas for planting and worked together to plant the trees. This will help to reestablish the shade lost due to invasive species, and more currently, to rapid ohia death.  Malama O Puna generously donated the ‘ohe trees for the Ahava ‘Aina community to plant in Keau’ohana, having been grown from seed specifically for the forest restoration in their Kapoho native plant nursery. Despite the thunderstorms, Ahava ‘Aina was able to plant ten new trees in Keau’ohana Forest Reserve.

Those interested in learning more about Jewish culture or joining Ahava ‘Aina should contact Rabbi Rachel Short or visit Those interested in volunteering for forest restoration should contact Jaya Dupuis or visit

Rat Lungworm Concert Press Release

MALAMA O PUNA – Preserving Hawai‘i’s precious natural heritage

P.O. Box 1520  Pāhoa, HI. 96778   (808) 965-2000 ~

August 9, 2017



The unusual name of this upcoming free event may raise some eyebrows.  A concert at the beautiful Green Lake/Green Mountain campus is the “tickler” to draw attendance to this educational event, the purpose of which is to control the vectors of Rat Lungworm Disease by providing the affected community with the knowledge and resources to combat it.

The entertainment will be headlined by Lito Arkangel, with Cosmorchestra, Kunzwanana Marimba Ensemble, Uncle’s ‘Awa Band, and other performers, including a hula halau, and will run from Noon to 5:00 pm on Saturday, August 26th.  The music will be supplemented by short educational speeches, informational exhibits and, of course, food and craft booths.  Learn how to keep rats and slugs out of your vegetable garden, how to manage your water catchment system, and how to prepare food safely.  Get the latest in research results about the disease, which is prevalent in Puna makai.

Rat Lungworm Disease is a form of meningitis that can affect the brain and spinal cord.  Symptoms may include severe headache, stiffness of the neck and back, skin tingling, pain and sensitivity to light, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting and sometimes coma and death.  In Hawaii it was first documented in lower Puna and is still most prevalent there.  The rat lungworm is a parasite with a complex life cycle that alternates between two hosts:  rats and certain snails and slugs.  Rat lungworm has five larval stages, followed by a reproducing adult stage.  Humans are affected by the third stage larvae which come from the snails and slugs.  Inside the human body they are unable to grow to full adulthood and complete their life cycle – they generally die in the central nervous system.  They infest farms, vegetable gardens and home water catchment systems and enter the human body through ingestion of produce contaminated with their slime, or through unfiltered catchment water.

The best defense against Rat Lungworm Disease is proactive – avoidance of the hosts, and the strategies to accomplish this will be shared at the event by the State Department of Health, the School of Pharmacy, CTAHR, Big Island Invasive Species Committee, Hawaii Catchment Company, Malama O Puna, and Puna Community Medical Center.  There will be people to talk to at their booths and lots of printed material to take home to read and refer to.  Ace Hardware will being giving out a limited number of free rat traps and there will be water catch filters available.  There will be slug-eating ducks for sale.

The students of Kua O Ka La Charter School will open the event with a Hawaiian chant and blessing.  The Burrows family is donating the use of the property, some tents, stage, and some of the security.  Men of Pa’a will be providing security and parking attendants as well.  Vendors may contact or for information and to arrange for booth space.  The event is co-sponsored by a county contingency grant from Eileen O’Hara and the environmental nonprofit Malama O Puna.

Submitted by:  René Siracusa, President Malama O Puna




Nonprofit Malama O Puna Supports Paris Climate Accords

Malama O Puna wishes to thank Gov. David Ige and our Congressional delegation for their leadership, integrity, and strong opposition to Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris accords. They have inspired us. All over our nation, governors are signing on to the accords for their states and mayors for their cities; counties, corporations, universities and nonprofits throughout our land, who have no doubt about the scientific basis for global warming, are signing on to the accords as a way to tell Trump that he is uninformed and does not speak for us. They are all telling Trump that they will do it without him, and that he is dispensible. Malama O Puna is joining this very informed and decisive group.

As an environmental nonprofit, we have worked hard to be sustainable as an organization and to educate our community about sustainability. For ten years we hosted the Puna Sustainability Expo, which provided a venue for vendors of sustainable products to showcase their wares, and shared tips and resources with our friends and neighbors. We have protected our native ecosystems by eradicating noxious weeds in our forests and we have helped to sequester carbon by raising native plants in our nursery and planting trees all over Puna for the last 27 years. We have repeatedly testified at the State legislature and the County Council in support of our environment.

In our commitment to stay on track for the Paris agreement goals and plans, we are in the process of taking our Pahoa environmental resource center/office totally off the grid and installing photovoltaics to provide electricity, and panels to provide hot water. We will step up all of our activities that will result in slowing the global warming process. We are also open to new ideas and suggestions, and invite the public to share them.

If you’d like to express your support for the Paris Climate Accords, you can become a Malama O Puna member to help further our work.

Mahalo nui loa,
René Siracusa, President