Photo caption: Hale Limu Lipu‘upu‘u is a cultural space built at the Waimānalo Learning Center through Aunty Ilima’s partnerships and WLC's many community volunteers. Photo courtesy of Dr. Jane Chung-Do, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Office of Public Health Studies
Hawaiian Electric is generously supporting the Waimānalo Learning Center and its initiatives aimed at building community resilience. The Center’s programs are rooted in community engagement, educational excellence and Hawaiian culture, which also are foundational to Hawaiian Electric’s sustainability and resilience initiatives.
Waimānalo Learning Center is a community-driven program providing educational outreach and training based on Native Hawaiian cultural knowledge to improve food security, health and holistic wellness of community members. WLC will use the Hawaiian Electric grant funds to continue its education, outreach and engagement activities through a Community Coordinator. Hawaiian Electric believes WLC and its community coordinator can serve as an innovative model of community resilience and engagement, especially during a global pandemic in which self-sufficiency and community wellness are critical.
“Support from Hawaiian Electric means I can continue to serve, teach, learn from and share ʻāina-based education with my community,” said Ilima Ho-Lastimosa, WLC’s community coordinator and a lifelong Waimānalo resident. Under Aunty Ilima, as she is affectionately known, involvement in WLC programs has grown exponentially from fewer than 100 to about 9,000 members as participants’ interest in learning to grow to their own nutritious, culturally relevant food through aquaponics, egg production and gardening has increased. Aunty Ilima, who went back to school at age 42 to earn her degree from Windward Community College, also is a community leader, Native Hawaiian cultural and medicinal practitioner, and Master Gardener. Her deeply rooted ties and understanding of the Waimānalo community’s needs combined with an inclusive approach are key to the success of WLC’s programs, from keiki to kūpuna.
WLC is a program under the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, which runs 18 agricultural research stations across the state. WLC was established in response to Waimānalo community leaders’ requests that the CTAHR Waimānalo Research Station support community engagement and programs promoting food security, resilience and access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The coordinator position was created in 2014 to meet the community’s needs and promote community-based agriculture and food production.
“I can’t express how much it means to be able to live, work and play in the homestead where I grew up, the place I cherish, and where I raised my children,” added Aunty Ilima. “It’s priceless.”
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The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future generations. www.uhfoundation.org