WAIPA — Lihue Kaiser Permanente physician Todd Kuwaye was thinking about sustainability as he waded through the loi at the Waipa ahupuaa during Monday’s Kaiser Permanente Day of Service held annually on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“It’s important to focus on sustainability and to malama aina. You malama the aina, and it’ll take care of you,” Kuwaye said after planting taro huli in the muddy water.
Meanwhile, Anahola physician Kapua Medeiros was wheeling young Lehia Martin around in a wheelbarrow, covered in mud from weeding more mature kalo plants.
“We do a lot with Waipa Foundation as a family, it’s so nice to be out here (volunteering),” Medeiros said. “A lot of my family came out today.”
Kuwaye and Medeiros were two of about 40 Kaiser Permanente physician and employee volunteers who were cleaning the loi and removing invasive species at Waipa Foundation for the morning, and part of a statewide force of about 1,000 doing projects for Hawaii communities.
“Hawaii Permanente Medical Group (HPMG) hosts at all the sites,” Kuwaye said. “They encourage everyone to bring the keiki, too. That’s how you teach them.”
While it’s the 14th annual Kaiser Permanente Day of Service, it’s the third year volunteers have gathered at Waipa ahupuaa on Kauai’s North Shore to pull weeds and roots from the loi and invasive plants from the edges of Waipa Stream.
Kona physician Daryl Kurozawa has volunteered at the Waipa ahupuaa since they started and said it’s something that helps him feel connected to Kauai.
“I’ve made it out every year from Kona,” he said. “We’re in our third year here on the island, too.”
Kaiser Permanente opened its first facility on Kauai at the Lihue Clinic in the Kukui Grove Health Center 2016. It offers primary care, lab and pharmacy services.
As the clock crept closer to noon, talk of lunch started circulating through the group. On the menu was a list of freshly harvested invasive species, including Samoan crab and several fish species.
“The last two days we went (and harvested for the lunch),” Kuwaye said. “They have dinners like that over here every once in a while and we get to destroy invasive species one bite at a time.”
That event started with a 2016 six-course meal in Waipa Foundation’s atrium and now encompasses local restauranteurs and brewmasters and around 300 attendees.
But at Waipa Foundation on Monday afternoon, it was the volunteers that feasted on the invasives and Kuwaye said it was a good way to drive home the points of sustainability and ahupuaa maintenance.
“Especially for the kids, they get to remove the invasive species and then they get to eat them,” he said.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org