Native Hawaiian Garden at DOH

  • Courtsey of Blanca (Baron) Gil Lopez

    From Department of Health left to right: Lisa Gelling, Epidemiology, Blanca Gil Lopez, Chronic Disease Prevention, Eli Sato, Laboratory, Lauren Guest, Emergency Preparedness, Patrick Peck, Environmental Health, Cynthia Chiang, Emergency Preparedness, and Madeleine Hiraga-Nuccio, Kauai Family Guidance Center.

LIHU’E — The Kaua’i Department of Health office now has a native garden growing outside their Lihu’e office and employees are taking time out of the week to put their hands in the dirt and care for the plants, thanks an idea sprouted by public health preparedness planner, Lauren Guest.

All the plants are just keiki, now, and plants include ‘a’ali’i, koki’o’ula, kulu’i, and pokalakala.

We hope that the new greenery will make the Kaua’i District Health Office a more pleasant and welcoming space for our clients,” Guest said.

The Kaua’i DOH office was selected as a site for a native plant garden by Kaua’i Native Plant Society (KPNS), which provides seeds and advice at the Kaua’i Garden Fair and Arbor Day events. This is a volunteer organization founded in 2002 under the care of Garden Island Resource Conservation and Development.

“We clear invasive scrub from and plant native species at places such as Koke’e State Park, Makauwahi Cave Preserve and island schools, among others. We sometimes sponsor workshops or lectures on native plants,” said Mikala Stover, KNPS representative.

According to Stover, KNPS donated the plants, mulch, cinder and other supplies to the DOH project. There were eight KNPS members and nine DOH employees who contributed to the project. After its mid-January completion, DOH held a blessing ceremony with Hawaiian cultural practitioner Sabra Kauka and pastor Diane Decker, both serve as KNPS volunteers.

“We are so grateful to Kauai Native Plant Society (KNPS) for selecting us a site to plant native species,” Guest said. “We look forward to seeing the plants grow and thrive over the next few years. Mahalo to KNPS for their dedication to beautifying our island with native species.”

DOH staff has committed themselves to the future care of the garden, according to Blanca Lopez, Kauai DOH section supervisor and health educator.

“To take care of them, we are incorporating Water Wednesdays, as a worksite wellness activity,” Lopez said. “More and more studies keep showing how contact with nature in our office environment makes us happier and increases productivity. So whenever you see it from, this is a win-win situation. And we are in love with these plants already.”

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