Aloha Members, Friends and Supporters ~
2019 has been a very eventful year for our organization. In addition to our usual environmental projects, we have helped our Puna community deal with the aftermath of the May 3rd, 2018 eruption. In doing so we have made many new friends. This report will refer briefly to these projects and programs, and you are welcome to contact our office for more information about any of special interest to you.
MOP goes off grid!
We accomplished a long term goal. It took a long time to put together the funding, and then almost as long to find a solar contractor who would not insist that we keep HELCO as a back-up. When Trump was elected and Richard Winser announced that he would remove the US from the Paris Climate agreement, Gov. Ige announced that Hawai‘i would stay in. Other states, municipalities, nonprofits and businesses also stepped up to the plate—including us. Going off grid and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels (and geothermal) is the most effective step we could take. Our building now has a new look, with 6 large panels and a storage capacity that can accommodate future needs.
Lava Recovery Projects
Access to Lava-Locked Parcels
Malama Homesteads was encircled by lava and homeowners/farmers were unable to access their property for a year and a half. They needed a nonprofit so they could be eligible for funding to open a road. MOP stepped up to the plate, and six families have now returned to their homes and their sources of income.
Land Donation to Kua O Ka La Public Charter School
The nonprofit board that supports the school, Ho’oulu Lahui, has accepted our donation of 9.38 acres in Nanawale Estates. The school was inundated by lava and its current temporary location is no longer in Puna although the students and staff are. The beautiful forested lot, which they will help preserve, will be a learning hub and a location for the greenhouse and native plant nursery.
Leilani Estates Evacu-cats
Residents were able to catch their dogs when they were evacuating, but many pet cats panicked and fled. We set up a fund for catfood and got many of them adopted.
Pahoa Pueos T-ball & Coach Pitch Teams
With so many recreational facilities and programs impacted by the lava, there are less after-school activities to keep our youth involved. Team sports provide exercise and opportunities to practice teamwork. We are acting as the nonprofit channel for grant funds to provide uniforms and equipment for this Parks & Rec program for ages 5 to 12.
Giving Local Nonprofits a Place to Meet
When the Akebono Theater burned down, several groups who used to hold their meetings at the restaurant or the theatre needed a new “home”, so that they could continue their community work. We have provided meeting and storage space for Rotary of Pahoa Sunset, Puna Community Medical Center Foundation, Mainstreet Pahoa Assn., and Circle of Sovereigns on a regular basis and to other groups from time to time.
Films for Change
On the 2nd Thursday of each month at 6:00 pm, MOP shows free environmental films, with free popcorn, followed by discussion.
Environmental Resource Center
We maintain an impressive library of books and magazine on gardening/farming, environmental sciences, landscaping, and Puna development and planning, among other topics. Anyone can sit comfortably and study. Guidance to our collection is provided. In 2019 we added 10 new books. We also have laptops available for those wishing to testify online at the State legislature or do environmental research, at no cost.
Hawaiian Sustainability Workshops
Another local nonprofit, Hui Aloha O Puna Makai, conducts periodic workshops in which kupuna teach crafts and techniques: lauhala and coconut frond weaving, haupia tree to tray, imu and laulau, makahiki games, and other cultural presentations. MOP partners with them by providing liability coverage under our policy.
We take part annually in the Tropical Living Festival at Hawaiian Academy of Arts & Science (HAAS) held in April. This year, to celebrate Puna residents’ post-eruption resilience, the “Activate Puna” street fair provided us another venue to share information and sell some native saplings. The Holiday Parade on the 1st Saturday of December will allow us to host viewers (we have 20 chairs) and have some exhibits available.
6th International Rat Lungworm Conference
We are working with the UH-Hilo College of Pharmacy to host this event during the first week of January, 2020. Our nonprofit status will encourage donations to cover expenses and allow the project to receive County and other grants. The event will be free to the public.
Keau‘ohana Forest Reserve
For several years we have been administering the funding for this rainforest restoration project, funded by the State legislature. The project coordinator is Jaya Dupuis. The grant cycle will end in June 2020, but the project will probably continue under Jaya’s nonprofit, Hawai‘i Environmental Restoration. We are glad that we helped to get the restoration efforts off to a strong start.
Halepua‘a Forest Reserve
This restoration project is funded by MOP. In 2016 we allocated $9,000, and our board just approved another $3,000 for an additional year’s work by Diga Kern. Work includes LFA control, invasive species removal, feral pig control and outplanting of native species.
Due to the incursion of a new wave of invasive species and the need to act swiftly, combined with a reduction in funding, Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC) was forced to discontinue this program prematurely. Now, ten years later, the dormant seeds have germinated. grown and matured. Two locations in the Pahoa area contain large trees that are flowering and seeding, and damage control is critical. We received some funding from D. 4 (Eileen O’Hara) and D.5 (Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder) to address the problem. So far we have eradicated 96 mature trees at the ginger patch on the corner of Post Office Rd. and the Pahoa Bypass. The next area will be on Ka‘ohe Homestead Rd. between Pahoa High and Apa‘a/Cemetery/Rubbish Dump Road.
Want to volunteer?
Pahoa Roundabout Landscaping
For quite a while the roundabout was not maintained, and sported a cover of strong, healthy weeds. The area was an eyesore, and sent a message that no one cared. But the roundabout is not only the entrance to Pahoa, it is also the gateway to Puna makai. So when MOP was asked to take on the job of beautification, we realized that we had a chance to “strut our stuff”. We signed a contract with HI. Dept. of Transportation to allow us to plant and maintain the medians. Council 4. (Ashley Kierkiewicz) and 5. (Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder) provided initial funding. Then Lex Brodies donated $300. Nurseries (Akatsuka Orchids, Big Island Plants, Pahoa Feed & Fertilizer, Kapoho Kai Nursery, Lehua Lena Nursery, and Pacific Island Nursery) donated plants, as did many individuals. HPD Officer Eddie Cardines donated refreshments for youth volunteers and 5 bags of black cinder, Hubs donated some safety vests, Ace Hardware donated mulch and Sanford’s Cinders has donated lots of black cinder.
And the volunteers, both expected and surprise show-ups, turned out to make their mark. Since this is an ongoing project, volunteers will always be needed to maintain the plantings weed-free. The roundabout is a community garden, so all are invited to take part in whatever way works best for you (weeding, donating cash or plants, planting, project publicity, etc.).
As you see, Malama O Puna’s work covers a wide range of activities and projects. That translates into many opportunities for support and involvement, mainly in Puna. We welcome your input and invite you to join us as a member (see our website).
Mahalo and Malama pono,
René Siracusa, President