We Had a Wiliwili Good Time – Opportunities to Mālama ʻĀina

In three years of serving as Hawaii Lifeʻs Director of Conservation and Legacy Lands, I have found one of the most important things I can do is promote stewardship opportunities that connect our real estate customers and clients to place. I encourage you, whether newcomer or long-time resident, to move beyond thinking about your home in Hawaiʻi as simply the property you bought, and embrace the larger context of ʻāina as your home. The word ʻāina is not simply “land;” inherent in the word is an ecological understanding of the relationship between land and people.

Getting connected in 2021 has been made difficult with the pandemic restricting our regular community events and gatherings. Outdoor activities are a great option: safer as the pandemic continues, and with the added benefit of engaging in the essential cultural practice of mālama ʻāina, taking care of the land so it sustains us.

dry land kalo

Recently I participated in a community workday removing invasive ginger and preparing huli kalo with Kahaluʻu Kuahewa.

Conservation Opportunities Can Form Connections To Your New Neighborhood

“We had a Wiliwili Good Time” was a headline in West Hawaii Today newspaper in 2011 about the annual Wiliwili Festival in Waikoloa on the Big Islandʻs leeward coast (the long time editor often delighted readers with puns and slang embedded in his headlines). I read that headline and from then on never forgot about the work of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative.

When I volunteer with a group dedicated to caring for a place, it is always a “good time” in the best sense of the phrase. There is laughter and camaraderie, intense learning, the forging of new connections, and the deep satisfaction that comes when making a contribution with the labor of your hands.

Wiliwili tree in waikoloa dry forest

The wiliwili tree – like this photographed in the Waikoloa preserve – is one of the few endemic deciduous trees in Hawaiʻi, known for being persistent in harsh conditions. Photo credit: Pōhaku Crystal West

The Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative protects 275 acres of preserved lowland dry forest right across from Waikoloa Village, offering an opportunity for residents to learn about native forests, volunteer in restoration projects, and get connected to what the ʻāina was like before the subdivisions and shopping centers arrived.

The Kohala Center is another non-profit organization with stewardship volunteer opportunities in Kailua Kona as well as in North Kohala where the Center is based. On the first Saturday of the month they usually have a hoaʻāina stewardship day at the Koaiʻa Corridor on Kohala Mountain Road. You can also volunteer with their reef stewardship program at Kahaluʻu Bay.

Hawaii Lifeʻs long time collaborator Hawaii Land Trust sponsors volunteer stewardship activities and “talk story” educational programs across the pae ʻāina.

These are just a few of the organizations and community groups with which I have personally spent time learning and caring for ʻāina in my own “back yard” on Hawaiʻi Island. Please feel free to share in the comments with your experience volunteering on the land (or caring for the ocean) in Hawaiʻi and what it meant to you.

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Tami Hayden

December 30, 2021

I would like to see info. on activities on all Islands. If others, like me who aren’t ready to fly yet, would like info. on the possibilty to volunteer closer to home.

Beth Robinson

January 3, 2022

> Hi Tami, which island are you on? Perhaps I can nudge one of our agents from your local market to give you some tips.

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