Next generation of Filipino Chamber of Commerce members stepping up

LIHUE — Addison Bulosan says the best time to serve the community is now.

“Our generation has the capacity. We don’t have to wait for permission to serve to give back. That was something big for me,” said Bulosan, a board director with the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce. “I thought I had to prove myself before I had to come back home. I realized people need help and you can just help. You don’t have to wait.”

The 30-year-old is part of the new generation of Filipino chamber members who are progressing their ideas and stepping up to the plate to serve the island.

“Now is an exciting and pivotal time for us as Filipinos on the island of Kauai,” said Juno Apalla, a chamber board director. “(Millennials) are there at the forefront of many things: helping community, building bus shelters, educating our immigrants on how to do their paperwork, supporting our business and so many other Filipino organizations.”

Born and raised on Kauai, Bulosan returned to Kauai in May 2014 and immediately worked in the organization. He is also the owner and clinic director of The Specific Chiropractic Center in Lihue.

“Ever since I can remember, the Filipino chamber has given back to the community — especially the Filipino community,” he said. “So returning home, the whole idea was to give back what has been given. That’s what inspired me. I’m home, so it’s time to serve.”

He and Apalla are part of the chamber’s aloha committee, which organizes quarterly dinners.

“These are the moments we get to bring people together. My effort is to engage the younger generations,” Bulosan said. “I wanted to make it a little more hip. These business meetings can be a little routine.”

At the heart of the organization is the scholarship program, said Randall Francisco, executive director.

“The chamber wants to invest in the Filipino community because they’re an important part of the population, and it’s the voice that will transform our economy and keep it going to the next generation,” he said. “By investing in this early level, it should hopefully inspire and remind the recipients that when they’re done with the education that they return to Kauai and also give back across the island.”

Since established in 2000, the chamber has raised tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships, Francisco said. This past year, almost $25,000 was raised.

“They’ve done the annual scholarship program and raised tons of money that have funded at least 50 students in both the community colleges and four-year colleges,” he said.

One of the recipients of the chamber’s scholarships is Bulosan’s sister, Clarrisa, who received a grant in 2008 and used it to graduate from Central Washington University in 2011. She works for Expedia in Washington.

Bulosan regrets not taking advantage of the scholarship.

“You have a social responsibility. That was something I learned from my sister when she got the scholarship. She took her work a lot more seriously,” he said. “She made sure every single thing she did in school wasn’t a waste.”

Another aspect of scholarship is the social support it brings.

“These people invested in you. You earned that scholarship and you’re able to come back and reconnect with us,” he said.

The goal for Bobby Ayonon, chamber president, is to attract younger members.

“I’ve been with the chamber for about 10 years, and the young generation needs to take over. The younger people can flow with it and get better ideas,” he said. “The younger generation are local and not ashamed to do things. We need doers. To be successful, you need to help the community.”

It’s a sentiment Apalla appreciates.

“Oftentimes on Kauai, we find a little bit of a reprimand when we’re trying to step up to the plate, when really we just want to learn,” she said. “There’s a whole bunch of us who are coming home and willing to take those leadership position. It’s nice to have leadership who believe in that.”

The chamber allows younger members to have discussions and be influential in the community — in both business and politics, Bulosan said.

“Either get involved and be part of the decision making and shape the future you want to live in, or you get dealt the hand you get and are never satisfied what is going on,” he said. “Ultimately, the generation before us will pass away … and it’s up to us to step up into that role.”

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