Restoring taro patches, troubled youth

FIRST PHOTO: Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and daughter Kenna got into the mud of the loi at Iao Valley and harvested some taro Saturday morning, joining the Positive Outreach Intervention program, or POI, a voluntary program offered to youths who are first-time offenders. The youths are brought to the loi, carved out of the Iao Valley forest by Kawewehi Pundyke and his Lo’iloa nonprofit organization, to work in the patches, to hear about Native Hawaiian culture and history and to learn some life lessons. For example, after the work was done and the youths were streaked with mud, some with mud handprints on their T-shirts, Pundyke told them that they could go to Iao Stream to clean up and to let the river carry away the dirt and any other burdens they were carrying.

SECOND PHOTO: Pundyke said that a youth who worked in the loi through POI came to the river to clear his mind on the eve of taking his high school equivalency test, which he passed. POI and Lo’iloa have been working together since 2008 with the work in the loi helping the youths fulfill their community service requirement. Tsutsui brought his family to the workday and got into the loi with the youths. His wife, Lyndelle, got a lesson in making poi from harvested corms. Tsutsui said that this was the second loi he was in recently; he helped plant huli in the Heeia wetlands on Oahu, part of the Hawaii Community Development Authority restoration project.