Nobrega, Malia (on community movements, native media, and education)
"To see that growth in the kids as Hawaiians, to me, that’s what I get most proud of. Seeing Hawaiian kids be proud of who they are and where they come from. Learn a little bit and hopefully open up the door to do a little bit more as a Hawaiian." Malia Nobrega specializes in curriculum development for Kawaihuelani Hawaiian Language Program at the Univesity of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, but we learned her interests and talents span just as far as her travels. Malia is a strong advocate for Native Hawaiian rights and education and is very active politically—she was a key player in reversing a law that prevented mothers from taking their baby’s ‘iewe (placenta or afterbirth) out of the hospital. She works with Native Hawaiian communities and indigenous peoples across the globe, educating them on the role of technology in preserving their own stories, while helping to document the lives of kūpuna we still have today. As a former immersion teacher, Malia is especially passionate about Native Hawaiian youth and helping them recognize their own potential through connecting with their culture.
MG: No hea mai ‘oe?
MN: No Hanapēpē, Kaua‘i, mai au. Noho mau ko‘u ‘ohana i laila, ko‘u mau mākua, ko‘u kupunahine, ko‘u ‘anakē me kona ‘ohana. ‘Elua o‘u palāla, ‘o ka hiapo ma ka ‘ohana, ‘o Gilbert kona inoa. Noho ‘o ia i mua pono o ko‘u mau mākua me kāna po‘e keiki, ‘ehā āna keiki. ‘O ka muli loa, ‘o Mark kona inoa a noho ‘o ia ma O‘ahu. Noho ko‘u mau mākua i ke awāwa ‘o Hanapēpē.
MG: ‘O wai kou inoa piha?
MN: ‘O Gina Malia Sui Lin Nobrega. [laughing] He Hawai‘i-Pākē-Pūkīkī. ‘O Sui Lin, he Pākē, a ‘o ka mana‘o "ka pua onaona." ‘O ia ka mea i hāpai ‘ia e ko‘u tūtū wahine. Piha Pākē ‘o ia, hele mai ‘o ia mai Kina i kona piha ‘ana i ‘elima makahiki. Kanawalukūmāwalu ona makahiki i kēia manawa.
MG: Aia ‘o ia ma Kaua‘i?
MN: ‘Ae, ma Kaua‘i me ko‘u ‘anakē. ‘O ia wale nō ke kupuna i koe ma ka ‘ohana.
MG: Do you have a favorite memory from your wā li‘ili‘i, of growing up, that inspires you or helped shape who you are today?
MN: I think the thing that stands out now, when I reflect back on my growing up, is that our ‘ohana does pa‘akai, and that’s kind of been our kuleana to mālama the salt-making area. My grandfather was the first president of the Hui Hana Pa‘akai when they were organized, and my dad is the current president of the hui. When we were growing up, my parents would always take us down there and teach us how to make pa‘akai and the different loina of that area. It’s kinda cool ’cause now my brother takes his kids and they continue it, so my dad can kind of do the luna thing.
MG: What was your grandfather’s name?
MN: Joseph Chu. He’s the one that’s from Hanapēpē. He used to do a lot of community work, and I just recently did an interview with my parents ’cause we never really talked to my grandparents about growing up, how did my grandpa learn and all of that information. So I tried to start doing it with my parents. My dad actually knows . . . my dad’s from Waimānalo, graduated Kailua High School, and after he and my mom got married, they moved to Kaua‘i. And from that time, it’s been like . . . about 40 or so years that my dad has lived on Kaua‘i. When he married my mom, he pretty much started learning from hanging around my grandpa.
My aunty goes and takes her kids and grandkids down, too, so I think that’s been a really exciting thing, being able to work on things like that. When I was working on my Master’s in educational technology, the teachers encouraged us to do different things that meant something to us, so my master’s project was putting together a multimedia CD on making Hawaiian salt. Unfortunately, I haven’t done anything with it! I never put it out because I wasn’t too sure about . . . how to control that information, so I’ve never put it out unless I’ve gone and shared it, then I would show the videos.
MG: That’s one minamina thing, you have to worry about how people may use the information you share.
MN: Yeah. I’ve been thinking of doing a book on Hawaiian salt, because I think it’s something to share and something people should know about. We have a lot of pictures, I think it would be a good thing to do . . .
MG: It’s on your list?
MN: [laughing] So many things to do, never know where to start with it!
MG: Are you working on any other kinds of community projects now?
MN: Well, the documentary in Miloli‘i is kind of an ongoing one, that was actually one of my last jobs. It was a federally funded program called Pacific Voices, and it took us all through the U.S.-affiliated Pacific. We were training teachers to use technology, we also took the technology with us and left it with them. That’s another problem, you can train people as much as you want, but if they don’t have the technology there, no sense you train them because they’re gonna forget. That’s something we did with a five-year grant, I actually got involved when I was a teacher at Ānuenue, and Ānuenue was one of the schools involved. The original director came and brought Pacific Voices to the school, and then in the second year of the grant they asked me to become the director, and I agreed, ’cause I wanted to travel. I’d get to train teachers, travel all throughout the Pacific, so at that time I was working with one or two schools on different islands, and I was in Palau, Yap, Guam, Saipan, and Chuuk. I loved it! I would make my reservations, make my connection with the kumu, and go out and do these projects.
MG: Plus the teachers were excited about what you were bringing to them.
MN: Yeah, they were always really excited. We would have after-school training, but I told them I’d love to come in and work with the students, so we started to do a little bit of that after we’d built the relationship. That project ended because of lack of funding, but in Hawai‘i our team has kind of stayed together, and we’re trying to organize it as a nonprofit to continue. Right now we all just kind of do it, we have some funding through another nonprofit to work with different ocean communities, that’s how we put together that festival in Miloli‘i that we just had in July. I called it Ola nā Kai ‘Ewalu, Ola ka Lāhui Hawai‘i. We brought together the kids from Miloli‘i, Mo‘omomi on Moloka‘i, Waipā on Kaua‘i, and Ho‘okena on Hawai‘i.
We wanted them to bring some of the films that they might have worked on before, plus work on training and doing more things. After one week, the kids are really, really close, everybody’s crying on the last day. It was cool because we went to Ho‘okena and the kids were really proud of their community. They took us on a tour of Ho‘okena and it really has a rich heritage and mo‘olelo from that area. They used to have a courthouse, they have a picture of Kalākaua standing on the lānai of a house from when he went down there to visit, they told us about how there’s a piko rock . . .
It was a really cool project, every day we had cameras. Some of it was low-end, we had Hi-8 cameras, but we tried to encourage the teachers to let the kids use them, as long as you teach them good practices, how to treat the equipment. In the morning before we’d go on an excursion, the kids would come and get a whole kit for their group that had a video camera, tripod, microphone, and still camera, and they’d have to document different parts of our trip.
MG: What ages were the kids?
MN: We tried to do it with high school kids, but we had plenny Miloli‘i babies running around! [laughing] We tried to have different activities for the young ones, too. Miloli‘i has a little library in their hālau area and just recently they got five brand-new computers. It was the first time we were all using them, and the kids loved it. We helped them set up wireless access, because they have a phone line coming in but it’s so slow, but they were just tripping out that they had internet down there! It was so cool . . . the last night we had a big pa‘ina, invited the community to come and after dinner started showing all the videos. We had 16 different types of media—they wrote songs that weekend so we taught them how to record them and burnt them CDs before they went home. Some of them wrote stories and used pictures, and most of them did video.
Different nights kūpuna would come, like one night Uncle Walter Paulo came, another night Uncle Walter Kahiwa, Uncle Waha came and shared stories and showed them how to make an imu, from beginning to end, killing the pig and everything! We have a 20-minute piece that’s killing the pig all the way to covering it up. It was really cool, that was really interesting to me because it was a little bit different from how I know my grandpa them do it. I asked if it was Miloli‘i style, and they said, "No, it’s Uncle Waha style!" Some of the Kaupiko ‘ohana said they don’t make imu like that, so that was really interesting.
What was interesting too, was when I talked to Ipo (Wong), she said they do that style in Ni‘ihau. We were thinking it might be because those two communities don’t have a lot of water and so could be why they did it a certain way.
MG: Are there any plans to use these documentaries?
MN: Mostly it’s for the community and however they want to use it. We’re actually finishing compiling all of it onto DVD. We gave them pictures, we had over 3,000 pictures, even underwater shots and underwater video. Before they left, we gave those to them, and as far as the videos, we’re just trying to get it to DVD and then it’s however they want to use it in their community.
A lot of the kids at the end said they want to do this next summer, and they want to bring it to their community. I’d love to put that together. We also recently tried to work with the Paepae o He‘eia group, too, so maybe we can go down and train their staff there. That’s kind of how the project continues, through friends, or somebody sees something and they really like it.
MG: Sounds like working with kids is one of your passions.
MN: Yeah, I think technology is an easy fit. A lot of our kūpuna are really open to participating. That’s what’s been really cool about working with Uncle Walter Paulo, he’s encouraged our keiki to interview and put it on video. He’s a perfect role model for it, he’ll let you tape whatever, he just wants to share! We’re also trying to help to write his autobiography and use a lot of the interviews we’ve already done. I think what a lot of our kūpuna worry about is that their story will not be told later. That’s a thought he’s raised a lot. He’s been a really strong person in Miloli‘i that has been a backbone for us, whenever we call, he comes, he helps bring the community, he’s been really good.
The kids in the area, they’ve really taken to it, too. They have some good young role models, too, who have been doing the summer program, so I think that’s really important. Like many other communities, the young ones, or parents are turning to lā‘au ‘ino, and this provides other things for them to do and lets them know that there’s value in their community. Last summer, I noticed the outside kids from Moloka‘i were so happy to be in Miloli‘i, they saw the value in Miloli‘i, and I think it inspired the kids from there to find value in their own wahi pana. I think a lot of times they just think, "No, your place is better than mine," but the kids that came were so thankful, "Mahalo for having us, mahalo for the experience, I love this place." It was funny because you could even see the little romances, you know, one from Kaua‘i and one from Miloli‘i, start out you’d see them hanging around and by the end of the week they’re holding hands. We were thinking, "Oh, no!" [laughing]
It just opens their eyes that there are all these awesome people out there. Some of the Kaua‘i kids, it was the first time they went to the Big Island, it was definitely a really good experience bringing all the communities together. That’s kind of like a side community effort, try to work it into my job . . . One of the things on my to-do list is in Ho‘okena. They said they have a few mānaleo in their community and they wanted help with interviewing them. We’re going to have to prioritize that.
MG: How do you think you’ve come to be where you are, so involved in various activities and causes?
MN: Meeting different people, traveling . . . for one thing, I love to travel and I guess in . . . 2002, I went traveling with a friend in Europe. We went holoholo, and all I knew was we were ending up in Geneva and going to a UN meeting. I didn’t really know too much about it, and we got there and it was the first time I met Mililani Trask one on one. We got to talk story, and while we were there, they told us, "OK, you gotta write testimony," and I was like . . . "What?" So I said, "OK, well, what’s the topic," I tried my best. Then we had to read it in front of hundreds of people! It was really cool, things kinda started from there. Being able to work closely with Mililani and having an interest in doing things with indigenous peoples has kind of opened up doors left and right. To the point where I have to say, "I cannot!" [laughing]
MG: Do you have a favorite place you’ve been?
MN: Well, the Pacific has always been a favorite for me, and I think most recently I went to Tunisia, Africa, and Brazil—for the Convention on Biological Diversity—and you know, I would never have thought that I would go to these places, and I would never choose them as a vacation destination or anything. Unfortunately when I go to places, I can’t do too much holoholo because it’s hālāwai all the time. Usually on the weekends, some of the indigenous people will all try and do stuff together. When we were in Africa, I got to hang out with this guy from Aotearoa and another guy from the Caribbean. When we were in Africa, we went and rode camels together, and when we went to Brazil, we all kinda holoholo together. You see the same people, so even though I’m traveling by myself, I end up meeting a lot of people.
MG: How do you think the traveling and meeting so many different people has helped with your work here?
MN: It’s definitely opened up my eyes to global and international perspectives on things. The best part of all of that is meeting indigenous people around the world . . . I would have never expected to meet these people. I can actually say I have friends in Africa, Brazil, New Zealand, Nepal . . . all different parts of Asia. I can actually email people and ask them questions. Some of the work has been related to technology, too. One was the World Summit on the Information Society, and I’m still working on projects ever since attending that.
What’s been really exciting, too, is that a lot of these people have looked at Hawai‘i or the Pacific as la‘ana, or examples, you know, can you do that in Africa? They want us to come and train them in some of the technological aspects.
MG: What kinds of things are you training them in?
MN: Well, one thing I just recently shared with them was about the festival we did in Miloli‘i. I explained to them that we were doing a lot of video, a lot of photography, kūpuna interviews, having kūpuna do demonstrations, things like that. I told them we did all of this in a village that doesn’t have electricity! In the evenings, we would invite the community and show videos all night, for two or three hours . . .
When I explained that to them, they were just wondering, "How did you do that?" So I explained to them, you know, we brought in a generator, we did everything, pretty much we were camping. Then they’d ask if we thought they could do it in Africa. We don’t know all the details about life in Africa or in their village, but there’s definitely ways to be creative. Technology is so user-friendly now. So I haven’t gone there to train them, but a lot of them want to be able to use the technology for human rights or to do documentaries. I’ve always talked about our projects in the Pacific in which we’ve used technology to give voice to the people, to document kūpuna but also to train the young ones.
These people in Africa, they think it’s so exciting, they really need to start doing these kinds of things, too. A lot of them are always carrying a little video camera, or a still camera, sometimes they just ask technical questions, you know, "Now I have the tape, but I want to connect it to my computer, or put it on DVD." I really hope that we can put together a team here so we can go and work in their communities for a week or two, just do as much as we can.
A lot of them, too, the way that they’ve gotten to even own a video camera is just saving. Like when we’re at these conferences, instead of all of us going out to eat dinner at a fancy restaurant that’s really expensive, they’ll go to the store and buy tuna and bread and just eat that so they’ll have an extra twenty dollars to save. I never thought about it, so I’d tell them, "C’mon, let’s go ride the tram and go touring around Geneva!" And they’d say, "Oh, no, that’s OK." Then I’d just pay for them to come, because they never get that experience.
Just owning the technology is a challenge for them. Mililani has this friend in South Africa who’s become a friend of mine, too, and we’ll always take those cowry shell lei that you find here that come from the Philippines, because they use it in their garments. They take it apart, they sew each cowry shell onto clothing, or else they’ll make headdresses, and then they can resell those things. So for us, a lei that costs maybe fifty cents or a dollar will become a part of their clothing. I think that’s really cool that every time Mililani will makana them with that. They like chocolate macadamia nuts, too, but at least this is something they can use!
Traveling in the Pacific is definitely my favorite, I can’t really pinpoint where . . .
MG: Well, it’s a hard question, because every place is unique.
MN: Yeah . . . but Yap and Palau are high on my list! When the governor of Peleliu, Palau, comes to Hawai‘i, we host him, we’ve become friends. We’ll email each other, and when ‘Anakala (Eddie Ka‘anana) passed away, I called to tell them. Just hosting whenever they send people or their families come . . .
MG: Could you talk a little bit about the ‘iewe bill that recently passed? You were part of a successful effort to reverse a law that prevented women from taking their baby’s ‘iewe with them from the hospital, right?
MN: Well, the ‘iewe issue is actually still going. It was a really awesome experience for me because we’d been doing a lot of legislation since 2002, and we hadn’t really won or had any policies put into place. With this legislation, this issue involving the ‘iewe, I found out about it through my friends. When I heard about it, I couldn’t believe it . . . I tried to think, well what can I do to help? As soon as I heard about it, I said, "We’re gonna change this law! I’m gonna talk to my friends, we’re gonna write it up and do it!" and they were like, "For real?" [laughing] I was serious, but I didn’t know if I really knew how to do it. We were in Aku Bone when I first heard about it, we were just in shock!
I called a friend of mine, Annelle Amaral, she’s in one of the Civic Clubs, and we just said let’s introduce the resolution through the Hawai‘i Women’s Coalition, which backs up different Hawaiian women’s issues. We wrote it up, ran it by different people, and then took it to the Coalition, no problem. Then we took it to the Women’s Caucus at the legislature, and they were excited. They said out of all the things in the package, the women legislators were excited to discuss this bill. That was encouraging, and then the home game started! It got introduced, we started to pull people together from the community, started an email list, and through the experience I’d gained doing the kalo biodiversity work, I sort of knew how it would go: a hearing comes up, you have to get people to come in . . . we tried to make sure we had doctors there, Kamana‘opono Crabbe helped us to do that, because you know you can be any kind of community person but they’re not gonna listen to you as much as they listen to "Kauka so-and-so."
There were some bumps along the way with the Department of Health, and it was kinda hard for me, because you know, the head is a Hawaiian from Kamehameha Schools. I was like, how can you not see . . . you have all this mana to change this and you’re giving us a hard time? They actually came into our first press conference and they asked us to pull the legislation. They told us they were working on the administrative rules and we didn’t need to do it, so I told her it’s a three-pronged thing: I’ve learned administrative rules take years. We’d work on legislation, and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation would work in the courts until we got a solution we were happy with. Whoever got there first. Around April 22 this year, the governor signed it, and I was just like . . . "Wow! It actually went that far!"
But even though that happened and the law got put into place, just a few months ago, my friend went in with his ‘ohana and they had a hard time at Kapi‘olani. I think most of the institutions have put their own policies and procedures together in compliance, but they haven’t educated all of their people about it. We learned at Kapi‘olani that the morning staff knew all about it, but the evening staff didn’t! Nine o’clock at night I was over there with my friends, we had copies of the release forms and the bill, trying to explain it to them. It was crazy.
So now we’re trying to see if we can update this release form that the Department of Health put together. We call ourselves the OLA Coalition now.
The ‘iewe issue was something I really believed in, I still trip out that we saw it go from Point A to where we are now.
MG: Was this a huge learning experience for you or did you feel pretty prepared going into it?
MN: I think most of it I was familiar with . . . my strength in all of that was getting people together, using email and networking, explaining the issue to people. Mainly my thing, even with the bioprospecting stuff, was to call and make sure we had people there, Kamana‘opono, someone from Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, Aunty Vicky (Holt-Takamine), seeing if some of the mākua could come, to me that’s my strength. Finding the key people and bringing them all there. Being a facilitator.
Now, seeing that we have to educate our community and our health institutions, that’s something I love to do, too, educating people. We’re just trying to find people who want to jump on the bandwagon and help, and it’s all outside of my regular job! CNHA recently invited us, Mehana Hind and I, to go and speak at their convention, and at the civic club convention, now that I have the resolution, when it goes to the health committee, I’ll get a chance to talk to them about it. When I wrote the resolution, I tried to put a lot of the mo‘olelo into it so that people could read the resolution and learn about it.
The civic clubs can be a very conservative group when compared to say, ‘Īlio‘ulaokalani or something like that, but a lot of these issues have come out of the civic clubs and have been things that the civic club members have supported. I like the setup of how you can introduce resolutions, and I think the civic clubs can give us a glimpse into the where our Hawaiian community is at. We’re not all the full activist type, or sitting down doing nothing, we’re trying to find what we can do. I’ve always kept a connection with the civic clubs because I think it’s a good glimpse to a large majority of our people. The civic clubs also reach out to the Hawaiian community on the continent, it’s a way to network with our ‘ohana over there, too.
I thought the ‘iewe bill would have been a really good one for teachers and their students to follow, and some of them did, but a lot of them followed it through newspaper articles and that was a big learning thing for me, too, doing the press conferences.
MG: What was that like, working with the mass media on a sensitive issue like that?
MN: Well, they were calling up because they wanted a visual, a picture, to run with their story. They definitely had an interest in the story once we sent out the press release. We decided after our first hearing that we needed to push DOH, and as soon as we sent out the press release, we started to get calls. I think a lot of them took to the families, that was really what they wanted. The media wanted to see the baby and all that kind of thing, and it was kind of weird. One of the families felt uncomfortable. They followed the ‘ohana, and the one they worked with did share good mo‘olelo. It’s interesting, too, because now we’re finding out that there’s a lot of articles coming out in women’s magazines and online sites, and there’s even one European one—we’re finding out that this bill is the first of its kind in the nation! A lot of the other states are looking and watching as to what will happen.
MG: It really proves you can make a difference.
MN: Yeah, and we’re learning from it, too, because based on the first case, part of the legislation is that the makuahine wouldn’t have any infectious diseases—HIV and hepatitis. But when we think about it now, if I went in as a makuahine and I had hepatitis, I can’t do it! That might prevent some of us from having that cultural right. So I don’t know if we really wrote it in the right way . . . it solved the problem right now.
This woman we were working with had a good point, you know, she said the funny thing is, they’re not gonna let her ‘iewe go out of the hospital if she has hepatitis or something, but she, the mom, can go out, and she still has the disease! So she can go out and share it with everybody in the world, but the ‘iewe cannot go out.
MG: I never thought about it that way.
MN: Me, too! And the woman who brought it up, she used to work at DOH, so we thought that was a really interesting way to look at it. They’re letting the person with the disease going out, there’s a way bigger chance of spreading it than what is done with the ‘iewe. I guess we’ll hit that bump when we get there...
MG: Right now, just be glad.
MN: Yeah. It’s been a really exciting thing for me, being able to say I was one of the main people in this group and I helped to facilitate it. I still think back sometimes like, wow, we actually did that, you know? Seeing that changes like that can happen pretty fast and easily . . . I always think about our kids, especially the immersion kids because that’s where I’ve always worked, I hope that our kids can go into that field, into politics, and be those people to change those policies. I think that’s the only way with our situation now, under the United States, if we put the right people in there, we can pretty much get what we want, just get the right people in. Train our kids to think that could be a job for them. I think that would be exciting.
MG: I think the ‘iewe bill is a good example of why we do need to get involved.
MN: Yeah, that’s why I mahalo a lot of the work that ‘Īlio‘ulaokalani does, because they see things on that level, too. Now they’ve been looking at the Native Hawaiian vote and doing a lot of work in that area, pushing people and getting them to run for office. They were trying to get me to run and I was like, "No! I’m not that crazy!"
MG: You’re also involved with the Ho‘oulu Project, right? Taking kids to Harvard over the summer?
MN: Yeah, It’s actually through the PA‘I Foundation, and we’re committed for one more year. I know for sure that the Ho‘oulu Project has funding on the Harvard side. It’s definitely a really good project, the kids come back changed individuals on different levels. A lot of our first-year students are going to college now. One got accepted to Harvard, two are going to Stanford, another is going to MIT.
I think when we take kids, we try to take private, public, immersion, non-immersion. I’ve enjoyed seeing the immersion kids interact with the other kids. Some kids have never heard of immersion schools! I use the immersion kids to be role models, especially when I’m doing Hawaiian language things. I want them to step up, because some of them really worry how they’re gonna be able to do the ha‘awina at Harvard that’s all in English, and I think this is encouraging them a lot to step up and think, "I can do this ha‘awina, I do want to go to Harvard!"
When I met these kids, I never knew . . . they’re high school kids, and my kuleana is to do the cultural stuff and language. We try to bring a science teacher with us, too, because a lot of the curriculum is science. One student, I remember, Dad was Hawaiian, Mom was not Hawaiian, but Mom and Dad are divorced and she doesn’t really know Dad or her Hawaiian side. When she first started with us, she was kind of shy, you know sitting in the corner, and here I was . . . the first day, we had two immersion teachers as the kumu so she was really scared because we were doing a lot of it in Hawaiian and she had never done anything in Hawaiian before. When I did an interview with her, she said, "Kumu, eating haupia is as Hawaiian as it gets in my life," and I was like, "Wow!" It was good to know as a baseline. By the time we came back, the way she spoke was different! Then her senior year, she took Hawaiian language at her school. It really opened up that part of her life, because even talking about her mo‘okū‘auhau was hard for her. She had it all on paper, but she didn’t really have the same reaction as some of us looking at her genealogy and seeing all the people she was related to.
It’s funny because one of the girls just wrote to me to say hi, she goes to Ke Ana La‘ahana, and her kumu made her read this article in the OHA newspaper, the ‘iewe one. She said she saw my name and remembered me talking about it when we were at Harvard, so she was really excited because she knew somebody that talked about the issue! I thought it was really nice because she was already familiar with it and she could share a little bit with her classmates.
This past year I tried to do a new Hawaiian sentence with the kids every day. The first day was just "‘O Malia ko‘u inoa," you know, and every day we’d add to that. By the time we came back, if each keiki did their ha‘i ‘ōlelo, it was a good five minutes long. All in Hawaiian. Every morning at pō‘ai we would pule, and then go around the circle and do ha‘i ‘ōlelo. And all memorized! I never got around to writing it on the board! We did that every day for four weeks. It really works, I mean there was little bit hemahema but I was really happy. Being able to work with Hawaiian kids, I like doing that. Doing the four-week program is kinda stressful in that there’s a lot of kuleana to mālama them so far away, but we all come back different.
To see that growth in the kids as Hawaiians, to me, that’s what I get most proud of. Seeing Hawaiian kids be proud of who they are and where they come from. Learn a little bit and hopefully open up the door to do a little bit more as a Hawaiian. Hearing them say things like, "’Cause I’m Hawaiian, that’s why I gotta do it," I’d never heard them talk like that the first week that we spent together. To see these kids now taking this next step is unreal.