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Helping People Help Themselves

By Dorian Nakamichi, communications/development specialist, Helping Hands Hawaii

In 2004, Mary Anne experienced the lowest point in her life. Embarrassment and negative stigmas surrounding mental illness prevented her from seeking help. But, motivated by her infant son, she overcame these hurdles when she received services from Helping Hands Hawaii’s (HHH) Adopt A Family program, which matches up individuals or families with donors who fulfill their holiday wish lists.


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Dorian Nakamichi

More than 10 years later, Mary Anne is back at HHH, and this time she is the one helping people in need. As a Hawaii certified forensic peer specialist, she works in the Behavioral Health division to support consumers (our clinical term) who may be homeless, mentally ill or battling substance abuse. Her role represents a successful example of recovery and what a more stable lifestyle can be like for consumers who feel overwhelmed by their illnesses.

“Recovery is possible,” Mary Anne said. “There’s still hope to make mental illness manageable, and consumers know I understand what they’re going through. There’s no need to feel ashamed about asking for help.”

Mary Anne is one of three HHH peer specialists who team up with case managers to address consumers’ needs. Everyone works together “to strengthen our community by enhancing the quality of people’s lives.” This has been our motto since HHH evolved from Honolulu Council of Social Agencies’ Volunteer Placement Bureau, which formed in 1941.

Officially incorporated in 1974, HHH continues to help the community with case management, day treatment, housing first placement and support, and representative payee services through the Behavioral Health division. HHH provides human services to poor or homeless individuals and families through programs such as Emergency Assistance Program, Punawai Program for Native Hawaiians,

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Ready to Learn and Adopt A Family. HHH’s bilingual access line provides interpreters and written translation services to help people struggling with language barriers access basic necessities.

Throughout the year, seasonal events encourage donations to supplement specific programs and an annual fundraising dinner in late February/early March. The Community Clearinghouse accepts donations year round. HHH also welcomes monetary donations and volunteers.

To check out what we do, go to helpinghandshawaii.org or call 536-7234. You can reach us by email at hhh@helpinghandshawaii.org.

Hawaii charitable organizations may send requests for space in either Proof Positive or the free advertisement below to dchapman@midweek.com.