In 2015, YWCA O'ahu embarked on an ambitious journey, adopting the state's only community-based work furlough program. The program was named Ka Hale Ho'āla Hou No Nā Wāhine...the home of reawakening for women. Last July, 24 women moved from TJ Mahoney & Associates and filled Fernhurst YWCA to maximum capacity. Some of these women have graduated from the program and now live on their own. Many of them moved upstairs to Homebase transitional housing.
Here are some highlights during this year of reawakening:
Last December, the women of Ka Hale Ho‘āla Hou No Nā Wāhine invited their families to Fernhurst YWCA to help build the community garden. With the help of volunteer Mahealani Kaawa and Uncle Stephen Yadao from the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center, the women and children planted sweet potato, ti leaves, lemongrass, and a variety of other vegetables and fruits. Stephen also donated $500 worth of tools to help the women harvest and care for the garden.
Today, new sprouts and fruits are popping up and the garden is overflowing with green. The lemongrass and mamaki plants are thriving and Aunty Mahealani taught the women how to dry their leaves to make tea. Cucumbers have been made into dip, lettuce has been picked for salad, and the tilapia from the aquaponics system have been harvested twice.
“What was really surprising to me was fresh celery,” said Fernhurst Program Manager Talia Cardines. “You can tell that when you buy it from the grocery store that all the juices have come out because it’s been in the fridge versus picking it straight out of the garden. When celery comes out, it’s gone. We can’t grow enough celery.”
In December, Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee Haunani Apoliona sponsored the Ka Hale Ho‘āla Hou No Nā Wāhine program for a two-day imu workshop at the Community of Christ Church in Makiki. Partners in Development Foundation hosted the event, which included breakout sessions for crafts, Hawaiian storytelling, and food preparation.
More than a dozen women helped prepare the imu—heating rocks, laying banana stalks over the pōhaku (pit), and placing the food on top of the leaves. Participants called it a spiritual experience and enjoyed re-connecting with their heritage.
While teaching the women about the Hawaiian Moon calendar, Stephen offered to take the women sailing at Kanehunamoku Voyaging Academy, along with their families.. He’s always wanted to support this population and their children, so he suggested sailing as a learning and family experience.
The women and their families set sail off Kualoa last April and learned about the stars as navigational tools. Talia hopes that the women will be able to return to Kanehunamoku for an overnight camp with the children one day.
“I think it was one of the biggest highlights of what the future looks like,” Talia said. “It’s such a hands-on activity and it’s another opportunity for them to identify their gifts and strengths.”
As Talia reflects on this year of transition, she’s excited for what’s ahead. YWCA O‘ahu has recently launched the S.E.E.D.S. Initiative at Fernhurst to help the women of Ka Hale Ho'āla Hou No Nā Wāhine with their health & wellness. S.E.E.D.S. stands for Social Connectivity, Exercise, Education, Diet and Sleep.
“It’s very complicated, very individualized, but we’re going to go for it,” Talia said. “Pretty soon we’re going to engage the women in creating the program and their input is going to be really valuable as to what works.”
Another dream she has for the future of Ka Hale Ho'āla Hou No Nā Wāhine is a keiki corner or a way for children to live with their mothers at Fernhurst YWCA.
“When children come it’s sad, but exciting,” Talia said. “There’s a hurt because of the time that they didn’t have, but it’s happy at the same time because they are with their mom. We want to have a place for the women to have their children, but how do we do that with the adequate support they need for transition?”
If you’d like to support the women of Ka Hale Ho'āla Hou No Nā Wāhine, please consider a tax-deductible donation by clicking here. Fernhurst YWCA is also accepting donations of:
- Restaurant grade dinnerware (ex. Plates, mugs)
- Induction and/or Toaster Oven
- Twin-size sheet sets, blankets
- Toiletries (ex. Deodorant, toothbrushes, regular-sized shampoo/conditioner)
- Exercise equipment (ex. Treadmill, Exercise bikes)