Thanksgiving on the Big Island

With it being very hectic at my work-place, I haven’t had the time to travel at leisure nor write about past travels, for quite some time. This weekend though, I had the rare weekend day when time and my writing mood are in sync, so decided to reminisce about a lovely trip I took during my time in Honolulu, back in 2012.

Over Thanksgiving break, some of my friends and I had decided to take a trip over to the Big Island and found a lovely bed and breakfast place by the beach.

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These were my special six experiences on that island trip.

(1) Relaxing at Hale Maukele:

Hale Maukele was a lovely, laidback bed and breakfast place, right on the black beach in Pahoa, and close to the volcanoes national park. We enjoyed long morning and evening walks on the beach, long cosy chats over delicious home-made breakfasts on the patio, overlooking the garden and the beach. The host, and her friend, was very welcoming and even treated us to beautiful Hawai’ian songs in the eveningDSCN2849.JPG

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(2) Exploring the Thurston lava tubes:

Walking through the lava tube, formed centuries ago, as red lava flowed through was a unique experience.

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DSCN3064.JPG(3) Chain of Craters trail drive:

The chain of craters trail drive, recommended by the volcanoes national park visitor center, had lots of interesting scenic lookout points all the way down to the sea. The Lua Manu crater, Mauna Ulu and the Hōlei sea arch were special points along this drive.DSCN3093.JPG

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DSC08455.JPG(4) Thanksgiving dinner at the Crater Rim Café and a night view of Halema’uma’u

It was a memorable thanksgiving dinner, at the Kilauea military camp dining facility, followed by a visit to the overlook at Jaggar museum, to see the Halema’uma’u crater, at one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

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(5) A drive through forest roads and a dip in a thermal spring

As one of my friends had an international driving license and I was a pretty good navigator, we had fun exploring new roads that took us into forest paths. I remember we decided to turn off into a farm road that said there was a waterfall, if we took a path through that road. However, our car got stuck in the muddy trail and some of us had to walk all the way back to the farm to get help.

DSC08492.JPGAfter the muddy adventure, we took the coastal road back and came across some thermal pools and decided to take a dip.

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(6) Memories at Mauna Kea:

Mauna Kea is renowned for its observatory and I had been keen to visit the place, during our stay at the Big Island. Mark, a friend of our host, offered to drive us to Mauna Kea as it was quite some distance from where we stayed and the little car we had rented out would not do for the mountain roads, besides our not being familiar with the route. It was one of the best and most memorable excursion of the trip, even though we didn’t get to go to the summit as the authorities had decided to close off access, due to bad weather conditions and low visibility. We did go up to the visitor center, watched some of the information videos there and walked around the center a bit, before driving back down.

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It was still a beautiful, scenic drive into the heart of the Big Island. Our special moment occurred when we drove back down the mountain and reached the highway. There was a vehicle parking area and we decided to take a break there, before the long drive back to our bed and breakfast. The skies seemed to have cleared and there was a full moon shining down on us. There were no other vehicles in the parking spot, though there was the occasional vehicle zipping past on the highway. One of my extrovert friends, decided that it was the right place and time to dance under the moon. She turned up the truck radio and coaxed us all into dancing. It was a wild, impromptu and fun moment, especially for an introvert like me.

The trip to Big Island was one of my favourite adventures during my time in Hawai’i. I felt a connection with the rugged and scenic landscape, more so than other islands I had visited in Hawai’i, and I do hope to revisit the beautiful island some day soon.

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Special Six: Highlights of Oahu

Hawai’i, for me, is a place of natural beauty, blue skies and seas and a people with a beautiful culture.

In this post, I’d like to highlight six special places on Oahu island, that I enjoyed very much during my stay there and would highly recommend to anyone travelling to Hawai’i.

  1. Kahana valley

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During orientation week at East West Centre, we were taken to Kahana valley on the North shore. We first went to the beach area adjacent to the valley and did some beach cleaning and then drove to the state park area.

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While it is a state park and nature reserve, some land has been allocated to native Hawaiians for indigenous plant cultivation.

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The staff member, who had organized the trip, also organized a traditional Hawaiian potluck lunch for us, which his family and relatives cooked.

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As I was new to the East West Centre culture of bringing your own lunch box for potlucks and parties, so as not to use disposable plastic ware,  I had to make do with leaves to eat my lunch out of. I was quite fascinated by the dishes I tried out that day – a porridge like stuff called ‘poi’, which looked like the north Sri Lankan ‘kool’ except that there was no flavour added to poi, not even salt or sugar. I learnt that poi is considered the quintessential Hawaiian meal made out of taro plant (called ‘kalo’ in Hawai’ian). The native Hawaiian folklore considers the Hawaiian people are descendants of the taro plant so it is a very much revered plant. After lunch, we were taken to the taro patch of the staff member and he showed us the plants from which he had extracted some taro for our lunch.

2. Waikiki beach

Waikiki is a place that any traveller to Honolulu is bound to visit. It is famous for its beach. It was a place that my friends and I often visited.

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However, there are lots of lovely places around the beach area that is lovely to visit as well. Kapiolani park, with a view of the Diamond head crater, is a venue for festivals and picnics and I enjoyed a few, including the Okinawan festival.

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Another place at Waikiki that I enjoyed visiting was the Aquarium. Opened in 1904, it is the second oldest public aquarium in the United States. I saw the national fish of Hawai’i there – the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, which is not the fish below, by the way.

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3. Coconut Island

Since I became very much interested in marine life conservation from the environment week discussions at the East West Centre, I decided to organize a visit to Coconut island for our cohort. The island is a marine research facility of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology of the University of Hawai’i.

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Groups, who would like to visit the island, need to book a prior appointment as visits can only be scheduled and there needs to be staff to guide you around the island.

4. Hanauma Bay

Hanauma bay is a lovely nature preserve and a marine life conservation area, which some of my friends and I decided to visit during our last weeks in Honolulu.

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5. Byodo-In

One of my cohort members was a resident of Hawai’i and one weekend, she invited another friend and I to go with her to a couple of places she treasured in Honolulu. One of the places we visited with her was the Byodo-In, a replica of the 900 year old temple in Japan, and opened in 1968 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to the island.

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We wrapped up our visits with brunch at my friend’s favourite pancake house.

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6. My favourite cafes 

Since I enjoy trying out independent cafes, I did try out some during my stay in Honolulu. Two cafes stand out in memory and I would recommend them both to someone, who really enjoys their coffee.

Morning Glass was a place I was introduced to when two leading Hawai’ian social entrepreneurs/ social business leaders I had wanted to interview suggested the Morning Glass as their favourite coffee place to meet up. It is a lovely coffee shop near East West Centre, with great coffee, and a great place to do some work or meet up friends or work acquaintances.

The second cafe, that I very much enjoyed, was Peace cafe, which is a vegan food cafe. A vegan friend and former colleague from my Stockholm teaching year had wanted me to meet her parents visiting Honolulu and this was the cafe, they introduced me to as their favourite cafe.

Have you visited any of the special places that I have mentioned above? Which would you like to visit?

[Linking this post to The Weekly Postcard and Faraway Files #42]

Travel Notes & Beyond
Untold Morsels

Special Six: East West Center Experiences

I had been meaning to write this post for the last few years, especially as I have been asked a lot about my time in Hawai’i with the G12 cohort of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program of East West Center. I finally got around to completing this post this weekend, sharing some of the experiences that made my time at the East West Center special and hope that it encourages some of you, who are interested in emerging priorities in the Asia Pacific region and are currently at a turning point in their careers to consider applying for the APLP or any of the other exciting programs offered by EWC.

The East West Center, an independent, public, non-profit organization was established in 1960, by the U.S. Congress, to facilitate cooperative study, research and dialogue between the United States and Asia and the Pacific.

(1) Sharing of diverse experiences

The 29 participants of G12 came from diverse backgrounds and experiences and it was exciting to hear about work they were engaged in, in their respective corners of the world.

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G12 and APLP staff, and a few alumni

One of the presentations by Yuan, a fellow cohort member, who is an anthropologist and development professional and who was doing her post doctoral studies on minority ethnic groups in China,  made a huge impression on me. Yuan and I decided to explore the possibility of a collaborative study, after the completion of our fellowship by spending some time with the Mosuo community she had spoken of.

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Yuan making a presentation about one of the minority ethnic groups

A lot of the conversations we had between cohort members was out of the classroom and mostly at Hale Manoa, a lovely residence hall, which was cleverly designed to nudge residents to converse with each other at their huge open plan kitchen and dining spaces throughout the building. Cooking, sharing food and conversations over meals, that took up most of the evenings, was a way of resident living there.

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One of the many potluck meals

(2) Inspiring classroom sessions

The classroom session focus topics had been determined by the collective responses of priorities of the cohort and each week focused on a particular theme, bringing in experts in that particular field for talks and discussions. I guess I found the week on environment, facilitated by UNEP staff Colleen Corrigan, an APLP alumna the most fascinating because it opened up my mind to marine conservation and the world beneath the oceans.

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In parallel to the themes for the week, we had several sessions focusing on leadership development. I enjoyed most the personal action plan development activities, which ran across the whole term on a weekly basis. The activities were designed to be reflective and self-exploratory and intended to question our assumptions about ourselves. It ended with us creating a personal action plan portfolio for the next ten years.

Some of the leadership sessions used sailing and navigation as a metaphor. For one of the field visits, we were taken to the Polynesian Voyaging Society office, where Nainoa Thompson, the President of the society spoke to us about navigation, leadership and the story of Hokule’a. We visited the Hokule’a, while it was being prepared for its next round the world voyage.

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It was also a privilege to go on a sailing trip with Nainoa Thompson who had been one of the crew in the second voyage of Hokule’a in 1978, when Eddie Aikau, Hawai’ian surfing legend, was lost at sea.

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Nischal, at the wheel, with Nainoa Thompson guiding him

(3) Solitude and reflection in the Japanese garden

The Japanese garden at the East West Centre was designed by landscape artist, Kenzo Ogata, and was the contribution of twenty two business firms in Japan. In 1964, Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko blessed the garden during a visit, and returned 30 years later to see the garden they had blessed.

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The garden is one of the special places at East West Centre and is adjacent to the Imin Centre – Jefferson hall.

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In addition to time spent on reflections, we usually ended up taking classroom group activities into the garden, if we were at the Imin centre.

(4) Learning Labs

One of the interesting experiments of the program was to bring together smaller groups of the cohort under themes interesting to the group members and work on a small project. My learning lab group theme was social enterprise and we worked with a small organization which supported migrant farmers integrate within the Hawai’ian society and have a sustainable livelihood. It was a very interesting exercise as the group members were from different academic and country backgrounds and we had different perspectives on the project. After some hurdles, we managed to work together by sub-dividing the group into smaller specific themes such as community empowerment, marketing etc. which allowed the different expertise in the group to come out. Our assessment report and recommendations were subsequently used by the organization, so it was a good outcome of the small joint project.

It was fun to present the findings at the event organized at Doris Duke’s Shangri La, where we were also given a guided private tour of the beautiful place.

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Photo courtesy of Matt Berry

(5) Interesting group trips and events: 

The first group trip was during the labour weekend, where the program staff arranged for us to go to Kailua beach and try out canoeing before enjoying a picnic lunch, courtesy of one of the staff.

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One of the last events of the program was held at the gallery on the ground floor of the John A. Burns hall, which is not only a venue for art exhibitions and performances, it houses a collection of objects from around the Asia Pacific region and is open for group tours to schools and community groups.

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Rangi and Sam

We had the last group ceremony for the programme, at this lovely East West Centre gallery.

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(6) Peer support:

We were asked to form voluntary peer support groups and naturally, the groups were formed around people we were most comfortable with. Initially, the group was more for ensuring that all the group members finished assignments on time, especially during the spring semester when we worked independently in our respective home countries or was traveling on an independent study trip. However, my group and I continued our periodic skype updates and chats and though infrequent now, we have kept in touch and visited each other in our respective countries.

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Reunion with Yuan and Duan, Kunming, 2013

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Reunion with Nancy and Aiying, Kandy, 2016

My time in Hawai’i was an especially healing one, something that I needed at that point in my life. The double rainbows, that was quite a frequent occurrence in Honolulu, helped me remember that despite the clouds, the sun does manage to shine through and  there is a special rainbow in sight.

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Looking back, my time in Hawai’i with the APLP cohort was a very special and meaningful one and I would recommend the experience to anyone willing to invest nine months of their life to step back and reflect on the path they have taken and where they wish to head towards, while engaging in interesting mini-projects and interactions with a diverse group of people.

 

 

Weekend in Maui

I had the opportunity to spend five delightful months in Hawai’i, as an Asia Pacific Leadership Program fellow at the East West Centre back in 2012. During my time in Honolulu, a close friend from my undergrad years, who lived in mainland US, made plans to visit me in Hawai’i with her family. She suggested Maui and selected a hotel on the beach.

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The highlight was catching up with her and getting to know her twin toddlers better, who were more excited about tent canvases and lamp shades, than the sunset or beach.

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We did enjoy short excursions outside the hotel we were staying. Her husband, who was also a batch-mate from undergrad years, had rented a car and we decided to drive along the famous road to Hana. Our stopping points were more dictated by the needs of the toddlers, anticipating whether they needed to run around a bit or get a snack break etc. And, we didn’t go beyond the Garden of Eden, as the kids were quite tired after our walk around the garden.

One of the points we stopped at was the Ho’okipa lookout, where we watched surfers in action.

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The Garden of Eden stop was great, because while it was a beautiful garden to explore, it also turned out to be fascinating for the little ones and allowed them to run around as they wished.

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Keopuka rock overlook

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As we drove back to the hotel, we saw dark clouds on the horizon and anticipated a heavy rain.

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However, fortunately for us, back at the hotel, there was hardly any sign of rain clouds and we experienced a beautiful sunset as we had dinner at the restaurant on the beach.

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Have you visited this beautiful island? What was your favourite part of your visit or what would you like to explore, if you visit it for the first time?

[Linking this post to The Weekly Postcard and Faraway Files #30]

Two Traveling Texans
Suitcases and Sandcastles

Book Review: Eddie Would Go

Note: I had posted this review on my blog View from my desk on 2013/02/17 and have transferred it here.

Eddie would go

eddieIt was a special wednesday evening at the East West Center, Hawai’i in September 2012, that I first heard the story of Eddie Aikau. The guest speaker, Stuart Coleman chose to talk about two Hawaiian heroes to demonstrate how individuals are catalysts for change.

The story about the Hokule’a and how Eddie, a renowned surfer and lifeguard, dreamed of going on the voyage tracing Hawaiian’s ancient route across the Polynesian islands but never made it during that fateful March 1978 voyage and how his life inspired others to continue that journey touched me so much so that I purchased Stuart Coleman’s book ‘Eddie would go: the story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian hero’ at the end of the talk.

I finally found the space and time to read the book this week and I am very much touched with the sensitivity and honesty that Stuart has handled the real-life characters. It is difficult to write about someone who has become a legend – a demi-god – in his death but it is even more difficult to write a portrayal of him that brings together different sides to the person and makes the person more human enough for the reader to feel a connection. Stuart goes further – he also brings to life vivid accounts of the people surrounding Eddie and how Eddie’s life and death touched them. I found myself reflecting deeply on how momentous events in a person’s life can change the entire direction to their purpose and life. And, how a person steers through the stormy waters is what brings them to shore.

I found it difficult to think about Dave Lyman, the captain of Hokule’a, on its 1978 voyage and how the weight of responsibility of that fateful voyage and losing Eddie would have weighed on him. I pondered on how his career derailed from a capable sailor to never being asked to be a skipper again and how it affected all areas of his life. To have taken a decision under very trying circumstances and for having that decision haunt him for the rest of his life. It is tough.

I also wonder how Eddie’s family themselves, particularly his parents for the remainder of their lives and his sister, came to terms with their inner demons. The fact that a family friend had asked them to speak to Eddie before the voyage and to persuade him to not go because of a dream that his wife had heard of the boat capsizing and Eddie being lost at sea. The family was torn but in the end decided not to say anything to Eddie because they knew it was his dream and passion and that he was a person who would go, when his mind was made up. It would have been hard for them in the aftermath of the accident.

Hokule'aAt the same time, Nainoa Thompson‘s story is a beacon of hope and a story of true courage and how one man converted a traumatic experience into a new life purpose. Despite the guilt and responsibility that had weighed on him, Nainoa became convinced of the dream of Eddie and felt the need to complete the voyage and worked hard in the subsequent years to restore the Hokule’a and eventually, embarking on voyages around the Polynesian islands and to other parts of the world. Now, the executive director of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Nainoa Thompson is the first Hawaiian to have practiced the ancient Polynesian art of navigation since the 14th century. It was a privilege to have been able to see the Hokule’a while she was in drydock preparing for her worldwide voyage and to hear Nainoa speak about the educational voyages they have been undertaking over the past two decades. To read Nainoa Thompson’s write-up on the last day that he saw Eddie Aikau, do visit Mana magazine’s article “Eddie Went.”

‘Eddie would go’ is a book that has been well-written by Stuart Coleman and which I really appreciated reading.

Book details:

  • Title: Eddie Would Go, The story of Eddie Aikau, Hawaiian hero
  • Author: Stuart Holmes Coleman
  • Hardcover: 271 pages
  • Publisher: MindRaising Press; 1st edition (October 2002)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0970621375

Interview #1: Cheryl Ka’uhane Lupenui

One of the pre-programme assignments given us, as fellows of the Asia Pacific Leadership Programme of East West Center, was to identify three individuals in Hawai’i whom we would like to meet and to subsequently carry out an informational interview during the programme. I decided that my informational interviews would be of social entrepreneurs as I had just started an enterprise at the beginning of 2012 and which I hoped to expand to a social enterprise. I came across a 2007 Hawaiian news article that mentioned the 25 Hawaiians to watch out for the next 25 years and I decided that I would reach out to three of the social entrepreneurs mentioned in that article. The following is a summary of my interview with Cheryl Ka’uhane Lupenui (Hawai’i, 27.08.2012)

Cheryl Lupenui is the founder of The Leadership project, a social enterprise based in Hawai’i and a board member of the Hawai’i State Department of Education. She was  the former chair of Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and has  also served on the Resource Advisory Board for the Tourism  Authority in Hawai’i, Organization for Women Leaders (OWL), national board of the Center for Asian Pacific American Women and on the community-building committee for Aloha United Way.

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Source: The Center for Asian Pacific American women

Working at YWCA

Cheryl Lupenui comes from a business background and was introduced to business with a philanthropic mission through her work at YWCA – an organization functioning over 100 years. YWCA has a business model tied to social enterprise. The primary revenue source for YWCA is mostly through fee-based services and a smaller percentage through philanthropic services. The YWCA mission is mainly focused on empowering women and eliminating racism within the national mandate of freedom and social justice for all people. The local state organization, focused on health and well-being, economic and leadership development, is part of the state-wide network, national network and international network.

Cheryl’s initial work at YWCA started with the restaurant and she created a venue for youth through culinary art. Her roles and responsibilities grew and eventually, she became the Chief Executive Officer of YWCA, where she worked for 10 years. A key challenge that YWCA has faced, according to Cheryl, is the struggle to continue to be a viable organization locally and across the country and internationally. One of the reasons is that women are really busy and YWCA counts on the presence of women. So, her primary challenge was to re-convene women with matters that are important to them, while overcoming the bigger challenge of their making the time to be part of a community.

With that objective in mind, Cheryl thought about what women shared in terms of a story, irrespective of how much money they made. Not poor vs. rich but what they commonly struggled – a work/life balance. First, she started with aligning a community on how we support each other and then as a community to champion for common causes, in terms of social justice. A lot of the new initiatives, setting the table for social change, dress for success, women leading change etc. were tied to that initiative.

Challenges and Lessons learnt

Cheryl considers that what she is doing now is based on lessons learnt and experiences from her work at YWCA. The biggest challenge, she faces in her work, is bringing a sense of community back.

One of the lessons that Cheryl learnt from her experience is when she raised the question about who else cares about women’s empowerment, she found that men surprisingly rose to the top. The initial assumption she had was that women should deal with their own empowerment but women tend to put themselves last. Whereas she found that men were clear about the reasons why women and men needed to invest in women and causes they believe in. It was interesting to come to that conclusion. So, she felt that it was good to have men at the discussion table, partaking in the conversation, and share in the leadership of the YWCA’s mission. The challenge was how to engage men and women as equal partners.

An example that strove to address this challenge was the LifeInc project – national school programme which was modified and brought to Hawai’i. The unique addition was that YWCA had approached businesses and asked for young adult volunteers, in their twenties, who would go into schools and volunteer as mentors. It was a team approach and there was a five member team so that at least one would show up for each class but usually all five turned up. Both male and female youth were included as volunteers – the volunteers practiced leadership skills and community service which was good for their businesses and the students learnt a lot from their mentors.

The Leader Project

Cheryl left YWCA around a year and a half ago and started her own company called The Leader Project. Cheryl had known what she had wanted to do but initially, she had wanted to work in an organization. However, she didn’t find anyone who was doing what she did and so she decided to start her own company. Her company focuses on leadership, from a Hawaiian worldview and a western worldview. Her leadership models are based from her experiences in studying leadership, leading at the YWCA and in community, and also providing leadership programmes for women in Hawai’i. She strongly felt that leadership models that we are familiar with are from a western perspective and that as a Hawai’ian woman and somebody who is here in Hawaii, Cheryl had felt that the leadership wisdom that the Hawaiian culture brought was being missed out. Particularly as she believed that we should honour what different cultural worldviews with respect to leadership means as there is no one way of leading.

Cheryl particularly wanted to blend her two worlds. Born and raised in a very western environment outside of Washington D.C. and ethnically, being a Hawaiian, Chinese, German, Italian, French and English, Cheryl has lived in Hawaii for longer than anywhere else and felt very rooted and at home in Hawaii. Her key question to herself had been “I am a businesswoman. How do I bring these different worlds together that of a Hawaiian businesswoman instead of being Hawaiian in one place and a businesswoman in another place?” She had felt that she was living dual lives for a while and felt the need to integrate both lives. Her company provided the space for her to bring her two worlds together and operate from that intersection and find others who would value this type of leadership development, not only value the perspective of the Hawaiian indigenous culture. Cheryl feels that she doesn’t train in the traditional sense. She named her company ‘The Leader Project’ because she likes doing projects and because she believes that “when we create projects as leaders and go through that together, we put into practice leading then that further develops us as leaders. That process is taking all that theoretical concepts and putting into practice and that is when it becomes really embedded – when you are actually doing it.” Cheryl particularly likes doing group process and projects where there is a start and an end and the outcome and results can also be quantified. She considers it a different way to enter the leadership conversation and that the journey so far has been good and that she has been able to make a business out of the idea as well as continue her volunteer work.

The Leader Project is a social enterprise. It was set up as a for-profit business and at its core, a social mission. Cheryl felt that she wanted to keep her enterprise simple and didn’t want a board of directors, staff and a lot of administrative work. She wanted to create a sustainable revenue source. She wanted the work to be valued by a western sense. She feels that a lot of the native programmes are funded through Government funding which can perpetuate a “poor and needy” conversation – “it is a story of a lower social income rung on the ladder, the statistics only look at economic measures of success – that is true, those are facts but I want to talk about strengths and other measures of success. Our people. Our place – Hawaii. About abundance and strength. For people to value it because it is really a gift. We pay a lot of money for western leadership, why wouldn’t we pay for other cultural leaderships? It is kind of a test to see whether it could stand as a business. To make it a profitable, a viable business that does social good work is a lot harder.”

Being a social entrepreneur

Some of the challenges Cheryl has faced while building her social enterprise is that she can only take on limited projects as she is the only one involved but at the same time, she has to build a pipeline so that there is income coming in. The challenge is particularly so if there is a very profitable project but the people or organization does not really value the Hawaiian culture. That is where Cheryl feels she has to be careful about – “even if it is profitable but if their actions do not value your core beliefs of valuing Hawaiian culture, then it is better to walk away. To believe that there are enough other people who walk the talk.” Another challenge that Cheryl faces is that she finds it hurts when people in Hawai’i do not really value Hawaiian culture. She sometimes feels that people outside of Hawai’i value Hawaiian culture more than some people here.  “This is the only Hawaii we have in the world. I do not care if they don’t hire me or value me but that is crazy if they do not have some value for the root culture.” It is in those moments that she sometimes feels she wants to give up and when she sometimes questions herself about the practicality of having a steady job and stable paycheck. She continues to face these moments but it’s been a year and a half since she set up her company and she feels she is now stronger and less tipped over or knocked off-center. Especially because she has seen the impact that her work does and she has decided to stick to it. Cheryl initially had decided that she would give it a year and see if it worked and has found that she enjoys her work a lot and has decided to continue. “Right now, I am in a good point and I would like to continue for some time to come.”

One of Cheryl’s key realizations is that she can contribute in a meaningful way, not because of her title or position, and not in isolation but with people. She feels that she gets to bring something unique to a larger   conversation and be part teacher/ part student and that she can really enjoy work everyday and the people she works with. The challenge she felt is getting used to not having a title and a reputation and being just herself. She suddenly felt that she was not anybody and she realized that much of her identity had been tied to a position. It was a vulnerable situation to be in as wherever she went, she went as herself. “It is not like here is my position, here is my other life. Everything is here – right on the table. It was difficult.”  Once she crossed the hurdle, for the most part, the joy/ great moments are just doing good work with people and having caring relationships in her work. The common goal that they are working together to make a meaningful difference whether it is in education, social services or youth, and particularly that she is just one piece.

Appreciating life’s blessings 

Growing up in the east coast, Cheryl felt that it was very much achievement oriented. It was always about getting an A in a paper, going to college, there were very much these benchmarks that she was taught that you do and you keep climbing up that ladder. It was great but she realized that she was missing a lot along the way.  She felt that the singular, individual mindset was kind of selfish and she credits her husband for being the first person to wake her up. She feels that he has been a gift – good at reminding her of what is important – “This is achieving a goal. This is living. It was a lifelong lesson to shift my mind to what really is important. Particularly in this results-oriented world. Nobody gives you a bonus for stopping and looking at a beautiful sunset. It is a priceless gift. It is nice to live that kind of life– that does not miss out. I feel I had missed out as I was so internal focused.”

She strongly feels that work is not separate than life. “You are who you are, wherever you show up. Compartmentalizing yourself is not fully living. It was not until I realized that this is everything. I bring all of this whether I show up at a board meeting, project meeting or my husband’s meeting or whatever it  is. I am fully all there. That was a hard lesson. It is part of every day. So, “being here is getting there” is just appreciating that this given moment, this time together, what it offers, beyond even just the beautiful sunset – the opportunities.”