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Kaua‘i Planning & Action Alliance address youth issues

LIHU‘E — A Kaua‘i nonprofit, focused on uplifting youth, created a project that was recently approved for a Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act grant. The group’s goal is to create positive activities for keiki and their families for the purpose of building youth resilience, promoting healthy exercise, addressing mental health issues, and suicide prevention.

The Kaua‘i Planning & Action Alliance (KPAA) was awarded $251,573.

“We were elated that the Kaua‘i Resilience Project (KRP) can expand our critically important work supporting youth mental health,” said Alice Luck, President, and CEO of KPAA. “This grant is a huge gift to our island’s youth, and we are grateful to the County of Kaua‘i’s Kupa‘a, Kaua‘i Initiative for their support.”

According to Luck, the funds support 10 community partners of the KRP in collaboration with more than 30 organizations.

Activities included:

• Movies with a Message — Family drive-in movie nights — Kaua‘i Community College

• Mental Health Healing Art Show — Kaua‘i Mental Health Advocates (KMHA)

• Youth mental health-themed theater production — Hawaii Children’s Theater

• Youth activity stipends for 50 families — Catholic Charities

• Suicide prevention workshops and training for adults — Prevent Suicide Kaua‘i Task Force and KMHA

• Suicide prevention workshops for youth — Hale Opio Kaua‘i

• Rock Climbing Activities — Kaua‘i Team Challenge (KTC)

• Mental Health Public Murals — Bent Tree Anamoly

• Public Education and Information Campaign — KPAA

• Mental Health Messaging Consultant — Deborah Goebert, Dr. P.H. Director, Hawaii’s Caring Communities Initiative for Youth Suicide Prevention; Department of Psychiatry, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii

These activities began in July need to be completed by Dec. 31, 2020.

Juno Apalla, Kauai Community College (KCC) Performing Arts Center (PAC) manager, said KCC’s Office of Continuing Education and Training and Performing Arts Center is partnering with the project to bring two traditional drive-in movies to Kaua’i families.

“The drive-in movie invites local families to watch movies with ‘resilience’ as their theme,” Apalla said. “The drive-in movies are traditional in a sense that everyone attending is required to stay inside their cars for the entire movie program.”

Social distancing protocols will be strictly adhered to, and with the support of security, enforced.

“We plan to partner with small local food businesses to encourage local spending through discounted ‘Ohana meals on the day of each drive-in movie. Families will have to pick up their ‘Ohana meals from the local food establishments prior to going to the drive-in movie,” Apalla said. “No food or beverage vendors will be present at the movie locations.”

KCC’s first movie location is on Grove Farm’s Puhi Park, where they hold a regular local farmers market, in Lihu’e and in Kekaha at the Kekaha Neighborhood Center.

“Save the dates: Sept. 19 and Sept. 26, at 7:30 p.m., gates open at 6 p.m.,” said Apalla. Food vendors may contact Juno Apalla at japalla@hawaii.edu.

Another KRP’s activity, KPAA will be using some of their funds to purchase a mobile 18-foot-tall climbing wall for young people to explore.

“It will primarily be located at Kukui Grove (Center), where Kaua‘i youth congregate and socialize,” said Luck. “It will also travel to different parts of the island.”

Councilmember Mason Chock said it’s scientifically proven that the outdoors, physical activity, and incremental challenges strengthen health and build resiliency. KTC has been dedicated to positive youth development using outdoor education and adventure-based therapy for over twenty years.

“The climbing wall brings the challenge course to where our youth congregate and socialize in a safe, socially distanced way. (It) will be a free activity for everyone ages up to 21 years old,” Chock said. “With hybrid school schedules and the increased need for out of school activities, our climbing wall intends to be one of many coordinated activities providing a healthy and fun activity for our youth.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Kaua‘i has lost several young lives to suicide, and KPAA’s intention is to ensure that Kaua‘i’s people who are at risk of mental health crisis understand that they are not alone.

In 2019, 34% of Hawaii’s high school students felt sad and worthless, and sadly 10.5% attempted suicide, Luck said.

“Our primary goals are to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues, and to strengthen Kaua‘i’s ability to provide assistance to those in need through education and training,” said Luck. “In addition, our goal is to help families build resilience in their children during these stressful times through fun activities with a message.”

Luck said this grant supports staff at the 10 community organizations and their working hours accumulated will vary among the partners.

“At KPAA, we hired a project coordinator to manage this grant,” said Luck.

For more info: keikitocareer.org/call-to-action/kauai-resilience

Kukui Grove Center was contacted but could not be reached in time to make a comment.

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Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

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