“I do what I do best,” said Isaac Poe, one of the Ka Leo O Kaua‘i volunteers. “I do it for love and all I ask is when you pass Opaeka‘a Falls, you respect me, my two guys, and the ‘aina.”
Poe, a retired state worker, adopted Opaeka‘a Falls and is a common sight as motorists pass the popular tourist attraction. He was one of several outstanding volunteers who were acknowledged for their work through the Ka Leo O Kaua‘i program that embarks on its fifth year.
Kaua‘i Mayor Bryan Baptiste, who started the community-based program four years ago, said there will be a shift in focus of the program from its starting point. “We will go from a problem response format to one of community-building,” Baptiste said.
One of the common complaints neighbors voice at the Ka Leo meetings is the lack of knowledge of what is going on. This will result in emphasis on communication so people are informed about what is going on in the community island-wide. Baptiste said there will be emphasis on neighbor-to-neighbor communication, annual neighborhood get-togethers, and envisions annual community events similar to the Play Day celebrated by Kilauea recently.
“We get our foundation from experience,” Baptiste said. “Kaua‘i is going through some major changes in its communities, but the people love Kaua‘i and want her to be the best she can be.”
Another shift in the program will be the emphasis on community building, William Trujillo, one of the Ka Leo coordinators, said.
“If you can’t trust your neighbors, how safe can you feel?” Baptiste asked the audience comprised of representatives from Ha‘ena to Kekaha and all points between.
Additionally, the Ka Leo meeting schedule for 2007 will have the number reduced to just four times a year, a number Baptiste feels residents can afford to give in return for a better Kaua‘i.
Sabra Kauka provided hands-on experience in the sharing of cultural practice, something that will be added to the Ka Leo meetings.
“We may come from different backgrounds,” Baptiste said. “And, within each of our ethnic cultures, there are commonalities we all share. We have the same agenda.”
Finally, there will be time in the meetings for “talk story,” Catherine Stovall, another of the Ka Leo coordinators said.
Since the program’s inception in 2003, one of the highlights of Ka Leo O Kaua‘i has been the creation of community response teams, many of which have members who initiated the concerns.
The Adopt-a-Park program has more than half of the island’s parks already adopted by various community groups. An example of this is Poe and his two helpers who turn out daily to keep the Opaeka‘a Falls area spruced up for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.
Another program is the Graffiti Busters who turn out whenever graffiti turns up, sometimes so quickly the police have no time to photograph, Baptiste said.
Additionally, there are drug awareness and prevention groups, neighborhood watches, and the more recent Community Emergency Response Team which provides community with specially-trained residents who can provide direction and information in the event of a disaster.
The CERT team in Kilauea was first on the scene during the breach of Ka Loko Reservoir a year ago and was instrumental in opening and maintaining emergency shelter for those who were cut off.
On the horizon are more community response teams which will deal with traffic and open space.
“We need everyone’s help,” Baptiste said. “Four evenings a year is something everyone can give to the community.”
For more information on the Ka Leo O Kaua‘i program, call Stoval for the North and East areas at 241-6398, or Trujillo for the Central and West areas at 241-6246.