Program has kids running for art

The Circles of Light After-School Art program has children running to the Kekaha Neighborhood site on Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

“One child said, ‘It’s the happiest day of my life,’” said Lisa Achuara, coordinator of the Kekaha program.

The comment came when Achuara did a nutritional cooking lesson and the child said it was the first time he was ever allowed to cook.

Ricardo Davalos, father of six-year-old Riley, said mom was home, but Riley preferred to spend time at the program.

“She really looks forward to it,” Davalos said.

Riley Davalos said her favorite activity thus far was making purple chalk.

For third-grader Iolani Malama, painting a vase was her favorite. Fifth grader Keilah Montantes liked making a turtle, shrinking it and turning it into a key chain the best.

Achuara said she learned the arts and crafts activities she shares with the children while attending the Susannah Wesley Community Center programs as a young girl.

When funds are available, she calls on various facilitators to share their creative and cultural arts. Achuara said the children were amazed when Kimba Aren brought her didgeridoo and Tibetan instruments.

“I try to get good stuff,” Achuara said.

Achuara also focuses on virtues. This quarter’s focus was on the virtue of kindness.

Achuara said she became acquainted with the program when she enrolled her son, who was a shy third grader at the time. She thought the program would offer him a chance to socialize with other children.

Her son is a junior in high school now and she is the coordinator of the Kekaha program. She stayed with the program through its site changes as a parent and volunteer.

When the Kekaha program was threatened by budget cuts, she helped find the current site and worked for free. With a current grant, she is now a paid coordinator and has an assistant, Suzanne Sakai.

Both Achuara and Sakai work at Kekaha Elementary School, so they are acquainted with the children.

“My job continues here,” Achuara said.

The children show up shortly after school ends, and Achuara has activities laid out for them so they can “chill out” after their school day and get ready for the after-school activity.

On this Wednesday, before the up-coming spring break, the activity was a bingo game.

The program follows the public school calendar, so they are on spring break until the new quarter. The program is free. Elementary school children and their parents are welcome to enter at any time.

The After-School Art Program is a popular one, said Gail Little, Circles of Light program manager. There are similar programs in Kalaheo, Lihu‘e, Hanama‘ulu, Kapa‘a and Anahola.

The Circles of Light programs focus on involving children, teens and adults in creative development, cultural education and holistic health.

E Malama Kou Kino: A Day of Caring for Mind, Body and Soul is scheduled for April 21, 2007, to raise funds for the after-school art programs.

It will be a retreat day for adults that includes art, massage therapy, smoothies, healthy lunch buffet, use of a pool and hot tub.

For information, contact Circles of Light at 632-0116.

• Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by e-mail at


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