Students help Kauaians clean up

WAILUA — Aloha is giving.

Buoyed by that sentiment, eight Radford High School students and one of their teachers from O’ahu spent precious spring-break time and paid their own ways to Kaua’i to help with the island’s recovery from weeks of rain and flooding.

The group members arrived on Kaua’i on Thursday night, and on Friday afternoon began the cleanup of parts of Hikina’akala, the “Place of Refuge” for ancient Hawaiians, by Wailua Bay.

On Saturday, the group was scheduled to clean up the Ho’omana Thrift Shop by the Wailua River, and an elderly women’s home in West Kaua’i.

Work conditions weren’t the best Friday, as dark clouds threatened to let loose with heavy rains, although the sunshine peaked through periodically over Wailua, where they also worked on the grounds of the Aloha Beach Resort-Kauai.

Whether the rains came or the sun came out didn’t matter to Shanna Ganitano. She was elated to be on Kaua’i.

“I came on the trip to show how much aloha O’ahu has, not only for our state, but for our neighbor islands as well,” Ganitano, a senior, told The Garden Island.

The eight students each paid $170 out of their own pockets to come to work on Kaua’i.

The eight were among 40 Radford High students who had their hearts set on coming, according to David Anderson, a Radford High School teacher.

Joining him as a chaperone was Sherri Campbell, a fellow teacher from the same school.

The experience of the trip helped the students to understand the power of nature, and help them the understand the value of helping others needing help, Anderson said in an interview with The Garden Island.

“I hope they get a feel for the power of nature and what nature can do,” Anderson said. “Also, just to get a sense of appreciation for what we have, and giving back to others.”

The group members included Radford High seniors Roel DeJesus, Grant Johnson, Ganitano, Rachel Thompson, Roxan “Roxy” Olivas and Jonathan Afaga, and juniors Sunny Blount and Hannah Morgan.

With tools provided by Ronald Kikumoto, the general manager at the Aloha Beach Resort-Kauai, which abuts the sacred Hawaiian site, some of the students, with shovels in hand, cleared an irrigation ditch that fed the lo’i, or terrace, for taro.

Others went to gather lauhala, or pandanus leaves, from areas by Wailua Bay.

Others like DeJesus carried buckets of sand to put around the base of trees. Offering guidance for the work was Sylvia Akana, the kupuna of cultural activities at the Aloha Beach Resort-Kauai.

Anderson and Campbell weren’t ones to stand around, and pitched in with the work. By hand at times and kneeling, Anderson helped clear grass around a cluster of dryland taro plants with Olivas.

For Blount, the work was a way to protect the natural beauty of the island, and, in turn, the rest of Hawai’i. “Kaua’i is a major part of the islands,” she said. “And we came here to do whatever we could to preserve it.”

Blount said she could have easily enjoyed idle time on O’ahu with school out for a week. But for her, getting her hands dirty and building a sweat to protect nature were more meaningful.

“I decided on my own to come,” she said, clear-eyed and resolute. “It (her work) is a way to help other people.”

Ganitano felt the same way. “My ambition in life is to help other people as much as possible,” she said. “And this (two-day work trip to Kaua’i) was the first opportunity that came up.”

DeJesus said he has never come to Kaua’i, but was glad that he was able to, because he wanted to “give back” to the community in his own way.

“I have never been to Kaua’i, and have never really done anything to help people at this scale,” he said. “Born here, raised here. This is home. And I want to give back.”

Anderson, a sociology and geology teacher, said he and Campbell, an English teacher, came up with the idea of the work trip on March 17.

“I thought it would be a good learning experience for the students to come out and to help give back to the community a little,” Anderson said.

All 40 students wrote essays, and all were ready to plunk down $170 for the two-day trip to Kaua’i, he said. Of course, only eight came due to space limitations on the flight over to Kaua’i.

Anderson and Campbell then arranged the logistics of the plane flight over, and lodging on Kaua’i.

Anderson said Island Air officials gave the group members a break on the plane tickets, round-trip tickets for $50. And Kauai Sands Hotel leaders offered rooms at $64 a night.

Kikumoto said his hotel owners covered the cost for Friday’s lunch and dinner for the youth and their teachers.

Beth Tokioka, the head of the Kaua’i County Office of Economic Development, also helped coordinate the trip for the students.

Tokioka said she thought it was “real neat, giving up their time” during spring break.

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