Students Continue Restoration Efforts on Kaho olawe

Laying+the+foundation+for+future+generations%2C+MHS+students+and+teachers+have+been+contributing+to+the+restoration+project+on+Kaho+olawe+for+the+past+10+years.
Laying the foundation for future generations, MHS students and teachers have been contributing to the restoration project on Kaho olawe for the past 10 years.

Laying the foundation for future generations, MHS students and teachers have been contributing to the restoration project on Kaho olawe for the past 10 years.

Photo courtesy of Kehaulani White

Photo courtesy of Kehaulani White

Laying the foundation for future generations, MHS students and teachers have been contributing to the restoration project on Kaho olawe for the past 10 years.

Jaden Ige

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From Oct. 4 to Oct. 8, students of the Hui Malama o Mililani and their teacher chaperones took part in the annual trip to Kaho olawe, also known as Kanaloa. The efforts of the various groups—including the Pacific American Foundation, Protect Kaho olawe Ohana and the support of the faculty and students of MHS and the Mililani community—have brought over 65 students since its beginning 10 years ago, to contribute to the onsite efforts to restore Kaho olawe to a healthy state.

“They want to make sure that the story isn’t lost of Kaho olawe. So that’s one of their big goals is to make sure to share all the stories and all the sites that they can take everyone to, and give as much history and culture back to all those that come and hope that they will share that too,” said Art Teacher and chaperone Ruth Ravina-Koethe.

The volunteers start with a plane trip to Maui, followed by a short boat ride to Kaho olawe. This year, a passing storm shored all the boats in the area and delayed their arrival by a day. “We were stuck on Maui because the winds were too high—I believe it was 50 mph winds with 60 or 70 mph gusts. That was a danger to us because we weren’t sure if the boat was going to capsize, or the zodiac, if it was just going to flip over, if anyone was going to get swept out because the waves were too strong. So they made the safe call to stay on Maui for the rest of that day and try again the next morning,” said Senior Bryson Shishido.

The students bonded with their fellow volunteers while waiting for the storm to clear. “I feel like instead of being more land focused this one was more human focused—at least ‘cause of the Maui day off. We got to really come together ‘cause I feel like this has happened before where I won’t talk with anyone on the island. ‘Cause people ask me like, ‘Do you remember this person?’ and I’ll be like, ‘No,’” said Senior Emma Lake.

The volunteers were able to build a sense of community after they worked together. “We stayed in our campsite together and you could hear everyone talking. Everyone would go down to the water to wash together—you know it was very communal. You did everything together. After we ate everyone would help with the dishes and help clean up and you learned how to work together as a community. When we set up camp, we help each other set up the tents; same thing with breaking them down,” said Koethe.   

Due to the volunteers’ hard work, Kaho olawe has greatly improved since the late ‘90s; the flora and fauna has increased and dirt roads, pathways and living areas have been constructed for visitors. “I was struck by how much development there was. It wasn’t as isolated and deserted as I would have expected. You can really tell that all the people who came before us and how they worked on this island to get it to how it was,” said Junior Chloe Oshiro.

The objective was to help restore Kaho olawe by removing invasive species and planting native plants. The volunteers helped with clearing the main trail for use in the Makahiki—a four month festival to celebrate Lono, god of agriculture, fertility and rain, for the abundant harvest. “So the tools were provided—some of us brought our own tools—and we walked through the trail and cleared whatever they asked us to; it was specifically (to) clear kiawe. You could tell that it had been cleared prior but it was still, you know, regrowing and so it was a continual battle of trying to clear out the kiawe. And so through this trail that goes on to a certain site for the Makahiki, they wanted (it) clear, so that it’s a nice path for those that go up. And so our job was to clear the trail,” said Koethe.

The purpose of the restoration project is to lay the foundation for future generations and requires support from communities all over Hawaii. “It’s not me, it’s not just Mililani High, it’s really big. They will continue to want to teach young people about Kaho olawe. We have generations of restoration work, and kids from Mililani High were actually part of the vision plan for what we want Kanaloa to look like in 2050,” said Club Advisor Sandy Webb.

Being isolated from the outside world, the students viewed a new aspect of life and experience, “Some have been on this before, some were new like myself, so for those who hadn’t been on the Kaho olawe field trip before it was eye-opening— amazing experience. To come and hear all of the stories and experience the island and experience the access and learn about everything. To have to leave society for those couple days and then to come back it was really much of a shock,” said Koethe.

 To inspire visitors to give back to their communities, students are planning their own projects. “So Emma Lake, she’s going to try to get kids together to work in the forests of Palehua above Makakilo because that forest area impacts the reefs of our ahupua`a. One of the girls is thinking about her parents (that) run a catering business and they run a restaurant; she’s thinking, you know, we could have a fundraising concert and it could help more kids give back and we could give like 10 percent of our earnings to the Protect Kaho olawe Ohana,” said Webb.

With the insight gained on Kaho olawe, the students involved will apply what they have learned to their own communities.

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