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One Strong Ohana Offers Help

Editors’s note: For more on Mariska Hargitay and her foundation, see the cover story here

Like Lilo (from Lilo and Stitch) says, ohana means family, family means nobody gets left behind.

That message also holds true for the folks at the Joyful Heart Foundation, who in partnership with the Hawaii Children’s Trust Fund recently launched a statewide public awareness campaign called One Strong Ohana.

But ohana to them means more than just your immediate family. It includes your friends, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, community members and more.

“We learned through statewide focus group testing how important the concept of ohana is in communities across Hawaii,” explains Mariska Hargitay, founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation. “We know that it resonates strongly because we truly believe that we are all part of one larger family and can help prevent child abuse and neglect by supporting one another.”

In working to engage the community in preventing child abuse and neglect, the Joyful Heart Foundation and the Hawaii Children’s Trust Fund conducted its own statewide research to see where communities stood on their level of concern, their level of awareness and their attitudes and beliefs about these issues.

The results, from a 15-minute telephone survey conducted among 700 residents statewide, ages 18 and over in the summer of 2010):

* 80 percent of Hawaii residents think child abuse and neglect is a major problem in society.

* Nearly 40 percent of residents know a victim of child abuse (and 9 percent disclosed being victimized themselves).

* Two-thirds of residents say it is difficult to identify the signs of abuse.

* Almost half of those polled believe that children can do things to prevent abuse.

* Nearly a third of residents expressed that they were reluctant to get involved because it was “none of their business.”

“The research demonstrates we have a real opportunity with this campaign to educate the public and tap into the value system that is so much a part of the unique culture in Hawaii – that “we are all one ohana,” says Hargitay. “So we rolled up our sleeves, with more than $1 million invested by the Trust Fund, AIDIA STUDIO and Bennett Group – our creative team, as well as dozens of community providers to develop the creative for the public awareness campaign. It was important to us that it was hopeful, strengths-based and local.”

The campaign takes a comprehensive approach, integrating TV, radio and print public service announcements, online communications with a website and social media presence, as well as hundreds of thousands of tip cards and posters displayed throughout Hawaii.

Some things you can do:

* Reach out to parents you know to help them see that they are not alone.

* Commend parents on the things they do well to give them confidence and focus on positive child rearing.

* If you notice anything unusual in a family you know, ask them about it and let them know you are here to help.

* Share your own struggles with raising children. It is easier to handle and laugh about your own challenges with someone who has been there before.

Also, Friends of the Children’s Justice Centers of Hawaii is accepting donations of the following new items: fleece blankets, bath towels, pillows and pillow-cases, T-shirts of all sizes and backpacks to benefit the children served by the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu. Donations can be dropped off at Whole Foods Market Kahala starting April 1. Hawaii’s Children’s Justice Centers are programs of the Hawaii State Judiciary and bring together a multidisciplinary team of professionals who coordinate their activities and investigations of child abuse and neglect. On average, the centers see approximately 1,300 children per year.

For more information, visit onestrongohana.com.