Workers from Hana High and Elementary School's award-winning building program recently took their tools, skills and aloha to Molokai to help build a restroom and office facilities for a local nonprofit.
Ma Ka Hana Ka 'Ike (in working, one learns), made up of Executive Director Rick Rutiz and 15 Hana youth, traveled to the Friendly Isle to join Molokai youth and volunteers last month and work for seven days to help Ka Honua Momona.
The Molokai organization's mission is to be a model of sustainability, "mauka a makai," or from the mountains to the sea. The nonprofit also cares for Hawaiian fishponds, operates youth programs, and runs a Hawaiian health and nutrition program among other activities.
Students work on framing a solar bathhouse/composting toilet structure. They include (from left) John Boy Kahalehoe III, Isaiah Pu-Akima, both of Hana; Kaio Kalawe, of Molokai (with number 11 shirt); Kieven Nakamura (with hat and sunglasses), from Hana; Kevin Dudoit of Molokai; along with Makena Keiley of Hana.
RICK RUTIZ photo
Together, they constructed a 772-square-foot office/learning center and a 140-square-foot solar bathhouse and a restroom.
"We couldn't have done it without them (the Hana group). We didn't have the money or the skills," said Kauwila Hanchett, executive director of Molokai's Ka Honua Momona (the fertile land).
The organization now has an office almost ready to be occupied at Alii fishpond in south Molokai, one of two 15th-century fishponds the organization cares for. Grants and help from businesses and nonprofits helped make the project a reality.
Hanchett said the Hana students mentored and worked alongside Molokai youngsters, and now the organization can boast that their facilities are youth led and built.
"It was our kokua," Rutiz said, adding that his students also took away work skills, life lessons and good will from their experience.
"The most incredible thing, the more aloha that we were showed, the more the kids felt like all-star royalty visiting Molokai, and they wanted to give more," Rutiz said.
He said that all day long the Molokai community passing by would stop to watch and also say, "Ho, we heard about the Hana boys, we want to see the Hana boys."
Students from the Hana program also enjoyed their experience in which they became mentors to five Molokai teens and men.
Jesse Silva Oliveira, 18, of Hana, said seeing the Molokai youth reminded him of when he was younger and inexperienced.
"That made me feel like I was more old than I really am," Oliveira said. "I felt like a teacher."
Oliveira took pride when he saw the Molokai youth learn carpentry skills while working hard on the office and restroom project.
"It made me smile," he added.
Oliveira said the group put up two buildings in one week, which he called "superfast."
But "it wasn't just get it done," he said. "It was beautiful work. It wasn't just slap everything together."
Fellow Hana program participant, 21-year-old Kalani Tolentino, also enjoyed his time on Molokai.
"The young boys, they were really nice boys, and they showed up to work every day," he said.
Isaiah Pu-Akima, 15, one of the younger Hana teens, also learned how to put up drywall, tiling, along with how to put up an office structure.
"I learned plenty new stuff about construction," he added.
Working on the project and seeing what the Hana program can do for others inspired the Molokai volunteers.
"If we had one program like this on Molokai, it would be a benefit for all the Molokai youth. I like the camaraderie of it - choke hands come help," said 20-year-old Kian Phillips, of Molokai.
Rutiz said at first the Molokai youth were timid about using carpentry equipment such as the nail gun, but after the first day it would be all the Molokai boys who would be doing the nailing.
Hanchett agreed, saying: "The first day, our kids were really nervous. By the second, third day, they were just jumping in, they were using the nail guns and tiling and doing things they never did before."
She was also impressed with the tile work the youth did, which features a paddler and canoe and a turtle.
The Hana youth even brought their solar workshop on wheels so they could work off-the-grid because they were in a location without electricity. The student-constructed truck has solar panels on its roof, and an inverter and battery bank inside that powers their tools onsite. Young Brothers shipped the truck from Maui to Molokai without charging a fee.
Ka Honua Momona chose to build as green as possible by using a Deltec home package that features an energy-efficient design.
But overall both the Hana and Molokai groups enjoyed their experiences where Hana students ate deer stew and meat as well as swim at Molokai beaches when it got hot during the day.
The students would work in the morning and then took off to enjoy the island and returned in the late afternoon before ending the day by being invited to someone's home to eat.
Hanchett said some work remains to be done before the group can move into the new office, but the nonprofit aims to begin occupying it by Oct. 1.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.