Last summer, Donnie Hoover realized just how much of an impact children from the Papakolea community could have on its residents.
“They asked me if we were going to do any programs because there weren’t any youth programs running here in Papakolea,” she explains. “I asked them what they wanted to do.”
What came up again and again was cooking and learning basic culinary skills.
“They wanted to learn how to cook a little healthier so they could cook for their families at home,” Hoover says.
She also wanted to instill in them the gentle message of always giving back to those less fortunate. Children (ages 11-14) in the community mentioned feeding the homeless in Kakaako, to feeding the hungry in their community, to realizing that there were numerous kupuna in the Papakolea area that could use a home-cooked meal.
“They were talking about their own kupuna,” Hoover explains. “Their parents are working, some are working two jobs, they’re in school, and their kupuna are home alone. They don’t have access to go to the store to buy food.”
The Kupuna Mea‘ai Project was born, and a little over a dozen youth help to feed kupuna in the Papakolea area, as well as surrounding homesteads in Kewalo and Kalawahine.
The group meets two days a week after school for four hours a day and has secured a community certified kitchen.
“It’s grassroots, and it’s kid-driven,” says Hoover, noting that the kids raised funds for the kitchen space. “The youth really drive this project, and that’s what makes it so special.”
More than 100 kupuna already have benefitted from this wonderful project, and nearly 400 Kakaako homeless were able to enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal last November.
According to Hoover, the Kupuna Mea‘ai Project is sort of a pilot project, and they now are working with another group in Waimanalo to establish a similar project there.
“I’m excited about that,” says Hoover, volunteer project coordinator. “Hopefully we can service more of the homeless and the kupuna.”
While kupuna and homeless are benefitting from these giving hearts, the children also are learning life lessons.
“It’s giving them something positive to do in the community,” Hoover says.