Archive for October 2019

7 insights about domestic violence

October 29, 2019

On a sunny Saturday morning in October, I drove to a small church along University Avenue in Manoa that overlooks a children’s playground. As the presenters held an opening circle, I waited outside the airy sanctuary to check in for a domestic violence workshop, “You Are My Hiding Place,” presented Wings International Ministry.

The workshop opened with a lovely song by musician Meredith Palicte and an opening prayer by Pastor Chris Irving. Throughout the late morning and early afternoon, we listened to speakers talk about domestic violence, teen dating, emergency shelters, domestic violence in the Church, and support groups.

Here are 7 insights I learned about domestic violence in Hawaii, how it affects people, and how to talk to survivors:

The domestic violence numbers are staggering. Marci Lopes of the Domestic Violence Action Center shared some sobering numbers from a 2017 one-day count in Hawaii: 131 domestic violence hotline calls were answered, 493 domestic violence survivors were served, and 170 women and children were housed in domestic violence shelters.

Our first response to survivors is important. “We always come from a place of believing victims,” Lopes stresses. When we talk with domestic violence survivors, we need to believe them, thank them for sharing, and refer them to help. Abuse is a choice made by the abuser. It is about control – through physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, and financial means.

Be authentic when talking with teens. “Teens value authenticity,” emphasizes Mary Frances Canta of the Domestic Violence Action Center, as she begins talking about teens and dating violence. There are three things to remember when talking with teens: don’t blame them, don’t focus on their mistakes, and don’t expect instant happiness. Remind teens that authentic consent is verbal and clear, continuous and reversible, excited and honest.

“I” statements have power. Canta talked about healthy communication and how using “I” statements can make conversations more effective and less confrontational. For example, say “I disagree” or “Let’s Google it” instead of saying “You’re wrong.” Say “I’m angry” instead of “You’re making me angry.” Say “If it were me, I would…” instead of “You should do that.”

Survivors need a safe home. A 2019 point-in-time count in Hawaii: of the 245 people who were homeless because of domestic violence, 51% were unsheltered, revealed Darlene Pires of the Ohia Domestic Violence Emergency Shelter. Emergency shelters, which offer domestic violence survivors a place to stay for up to 90 days, but more transitional or long-term shelters and permanent housing are needed.

Religion is not an excuse for abuse. Marriage is a covenant. Keep the family together. Christian teachings often deter domestic violence survivors from leaving their abusers, said Clara Priester of the Woman’s Board of Missions for the Pacific Islands. But the Bible really teaches that abuse is unacceptable. Everyone has the right not to be abused.

Support groups offer safety. Support groups provide a safe place – not therapy, Norina Barcenas of Wings International Ministry reminds us. So many times we try to find a solution to a problem, and so many times what we really need to do is listen.

“Minister to each other and lift each other up,” Barcenas said at the end of the workshop. The workshop closed with a moving hula by Enola Lum and a closing prayer.

If you or someone you know are in crisis as a result of intimate partner violence, please call the Domestic Violence Action Center Helpline on Oahu at 808-531-3771 or toll-free at 800-690-6200.

Make a Difference Day 2019 in Hawaii

October 22, 2019

We celebrate Make a Difference Day on the fourth Saturday of October to remind ourselves that we can make a difference in ourselves, in Hawai‘i, and in the world.

There are many ways that you volunteer, give back, and can be the change you seek. Here are just four of the service opportunities on Saturday, October 26, 2019 in Hawai‘i:

  • Make a Difference Day, Waimea Valley, Oahu, 8:30am-2:00pm. Join Waimea Valley and Miss Hawaiʻi 2019 for a day of volunteer activities and community organization information booths. All ages welcome. Tools provided but if you have your own gloves please bring. Other recommendations garden shoes (only closed toed shoes), gloves, mosquito spray, sunblock, hat, rain jacket in case, water, and lunch. For more information email or call 808-638-5855.
  • 10,000 Tree Planting on Make a Difference Day, Central Oahu, to be announced. Kupu is partnering with Dr. Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii and The Garden Club of Honolulu to plant a record 10,000 trees with 1,000 volunteers in a mass-planting demonstration. Register at or contact Minette Lew-McCabe at 808-784-4835 or
  • Make a Difference Day at Kamalani Playground, Lydate Park, Kauai, 7:30 am to 12 pm. We meet at 7:30 am in the Main Pavilion, enjoy a pastry, fruit, coffee or tea and begin our work day around 8am. Water, Snacks and Potluck Lunch are provided with lunch service happening around 11:15am. This year, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the building of the park! Register at
  • Pūpūkea Paumalū Volunteer Work Day, 9 am, Pupukea Paumalu State Park Reserve, Haleiwa, Oahu. Join NSCLT for our community work days to mālama this special place on the fourth Saturday of each month. Meet in the parking lot at Sunset Beach Neighborhood Park prior to hiking into the reserve. Restoration activities include trail maintenance, stair building and invasive species removal. More information at

How will you make a difference this weekend and everyday? What small change or act of service can you do to better Hawai‘i?

Selecting legislators like jurors

October 15, 2019

This summer, I received a summons for jury duty. I was instructed to call the court for further instructions the night before my summons date. Though I took the whole day off, the case was settled and I didn’t actually have to serve.

But this whole process made me wonder… what if we selected legislators like jury duty?

It takes a lot of courage, money, and energy, a thick skin, and a willingness to be in the limelight for candidates to run for office.

As voters, we often don’t know our legislators very well. We vote based on a combination of personal charisma, vision, debates, campaign donations, sign-waving, sound-bites, and handshakes.

The approach to jury duty is much different. Every US citizen at least 18 years of age, in good physical and mental condition, who has not been convicted of a felony, is eligible to serve.

Juries are not filled by people who campaign for the job. They are filled by ordinary people who often don’t want to be there, but show up anyway and do their best to uphold the law.

So I’ve been wondering… what if we created a few at-large legislative positions, from a “legislative pool” of full-time residents who are registered voters, with no criminal records? How would these at-large legislators affect the law-making and budgeting process – and the way we view our elected officials?

A legislative pool might work something like this:

  1. Eligible candidates could be summoned to legislative duty by random drawing.
  2. State attorneys could interview potential legislators for potential conflicts of interest; whether they are exempt from serving (such as members of the armed forces, emergency personnel, and government personnel); and whether it would be an undue hardship to serve (such as economic hardship and physical or mental disabilities).
  3. Twelve statewide “at-large” legislators could serve for one legislative session, roughly January through May.

Legislators drawn from our “peers” might better represent the diversity of Hawaii’s culture and values; be less influenced by campaign donations, since they would not have to fundraise to run for office (this is the same argument for publically-funded elections); offer new perspective and solutions to the problems we face; and give people legislative experience, potentially increasing the number of interested candidates.

I don’t know how much it would cost to create a pool of citizen-legislators, or how it would affect committee assignments and discussions, or whether it’s a good idea to have more legislators tinkering with legal and tax codes. Doing something different isn’t always better, but it could be interesting.

How well do you know your state legislators? How confident are you that you are voting for the right candidates? If you were called to be a legislator, would you serve?

Happiness and aging well

October 8, 2019

Loneliness, boredom, and helplessness.

Earlier this month, Dr. William Thomas, founder of the Eden Alternative and Eden at Home, gave an engaging keynote speech to volunteers and caregivers at the Project Dana 30th Anniversary Celebration and Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. Project Dana provides services to the frail elderly and disabled to ensure their wellbeing, independence, and dignity.

Dr. Thomas’ speech was about elderhood, a stage in life that involves grandparenting, teaching, and storytelling. He said thatthere are three “plagues” of old age – and really, of all ages – and they are absolutely curable. It made me think about how I can age well.

The cure for loneliness is companionship. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. I’m more introverted and don’t mind spending time alone, but there are times when I want to be around people. Sometimes it means accepting invitations (I’m trying to say “yes” more often), and other times it means inviting others to spend time with me.

The cure for boredom is variety. I’m a person of routines; I don’t need a lot of variety. But within those routines, I make space for imagination, learning, and creativity. I set aside time to read books and create art (and sometimes even succeed in getting family members to join in). And really, there’s nothing wrong with a little boredom – it can help us be more creative and come up with unexpected solutions.

The cure for helplessness is service. Whether through a service program or in everyday life, there are many opportunities to give. One week, my aunt, who is retired, spent hours talking with an elderly woman she met at a shopping center, concerned because the woman had no one she could depend on. My aunt was happy to talk with her and offer advice that she had learned through trial and error. Service doesn’t just benefit the recipient; it lets us appreciate our ability to help others, and reminds us that we need to take care of ourselves so that we can be of service to others.

Dr. Thomas sums it up this way: “Happiness springs from gratitude and service.”

What three things made you happy today? How do you stay young?

Creating a strategy for burnout

October 1, 2019

“Burnout is not a problem,” declares Dike Drummond, founder and CEO of The Happy MD. “It is a dilemma. And you address a dilemma with a strategy.”

It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was attending the Hawaii Health Workforce Summit for the first time. I’m not a healthcare provider, but I work for a nonprofit counseling center in Hawaii. And I was feeling the strain of talking with clients, supporting our staff, and trying to grow our center.

Drummond’s energizing presentation about “Provider Wellness: Leading Change from Within the System” came at just the right time to remind me that healthcare providers and staff need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others.

The stakes are high. Burnout –exhaustion, a growing cynicism, a feeling that we aren’t making a difference – is bad for patients and bad for caregivers. But it’s not a problem that can be solved, Drummond states. It is a balancing act between the energy burn of work and our ability to recharge.

What can we do?

As individuals, we can choose 3-5 new actions – things we can do to take care of ourselves – and make them habits. This will help us manage our physical, emotional, and spiritual energies so we can maintain that balance.

As organizations and leaders, we can create a “Quadruple Aim Blueprint” to maximize the health and well-being of our providers, colleagues, and staff.

  1. Education. We can teach people about stress and stress management at work. We can normalize healthy conversations about stress and burnout. We can add burnout training for all new hires, too.
  2. Culture and connection. We can build social ties by creating entertainment and fun, family events. We can create a social calendar and put some money behind it. I’ve planned a couple of staff picnics, and he said something I really needed to hear: Don’t worry about the people who don’t show up – have fun with the people who do show up!
  3. Crisis management. We can put plans in place to react to a crisis, such as sharing a 24/7 hotline; and to be proactive in a crisis, such as acts of kindness when a staff member is in distress. It’s the first time I learned about Code Lavender, a code that healthcare providers can use when a stressful or traumatic event occurs at work.
  4. Quality improvement. We can ask staff about the biggest sources of their stress, and try to reduce or eliminate them. This shows that we are listening and that we care.

It won’t happen overnight, but Drummond gave me a starting point – and an end goal.

What 3 things can you start doing to take care of yourself? How does your company help to reduce stress at work?