Archive for the ‘Community’ category

Reacting to an emergency alert

January 16, 2018

It could have been the last 13 minutes in Hawaii. On January 13, 2018 at 8:07 am, I was away from home, preparing for our company retreat, when received an emergency text alert about a ballistic missile inbound to Hawaii.

It was quiet, with normal Saturday morning street traffic – no warning sirens, no aircraft overhead, no urgent radio broadcasts. I couldn’t believe the alert. Maybe I was in denial. Mainly I felt confused.

My son was still sleeping; I gave him a goodbye hug before I left. My husband was driving home, and he didn’t stop driving; he called to tell me that according to Facebook posts, it was a false alarm.

So we knew we were safe before the official word.

We had already started our company retreat. Ironically, we were planning for the future, reviewing last year’s accomplishments and updating our strategic plan.

Later, I met my family and we ate lunch, did errands, went to the library, ate dinner, and watched the local news with some disbelief.

I wondered whether it’s better to know, so we can prepare and say goodbye; or better not to know, so we can minimize fear, anxiety, and stress if the threat is averted.

I wondered whether I was able stay calm because there were so few people around me. We stood around feeling confused because there were no warning sirens. In other parts of the Hawaii, stores and hotels went into lock-down; and people in larger groups panicked.

When we got home, I did laundry. Even though the threat was over, it seemed important to have clean clothes.

I woke up Sunday morning and felt like doing something creative, so I painted.

Where were you when you heard Hawaii’s emergency alert? How did you react – and what would you do differently if we receive a second alert?


First sunrise of 2018

January 9, 2018

Instead of staying up late to watch fireworks or writing New Year’s Resolutions that would be broken, we got up early on New Year’s Day and walked the First Day Hike up the Makapu‘u Point Lighthouse Trail.

I wanted to start the new year with something we could do as a family, something we had never done before, and something that we could also share with other people. A hike, even an easy one on a paved road with a gradual ascent, seemed like the perfect way to start the new year: a little bit of effort, clean air, and gorgeous views of the Kaiwi coast.

With jackets, flashlights, and water bottles, we walked up the clean road, stopping at the lookout points to peer down at the ocean. The near-full moon was a bright disk over Koko Crater, giving us enough light on the first part of the hike. The wind was cool and temperate; no sudden gusts pushed us towards the edge of the trail or seeped through our warm clothes. Above us, people ghosted across the mountain on smaller trails. Like mountain goats, people sat on the slope below the Point and made themselves comfortable.

I sat cross-legged on a rock wall at one of the Makapu‘u Point lookouts, before the top of the trail. I closed my eyes and could hear the waves crashing against the rocks, the murmur of voices in the early dawn. The dark gray clouds slowly lighted from cobalt to blush to orange crème.

Facing the sun, we couldn’t see any lights from homes or the highway. We were in a private family circle, part of the community.

At sunrise we walked up to the Point and listened to the pu, the oli, the bagpipes, and taiko drums welcome the new year.

The hike down the trail was quicker in the morning light. Energetic runners jogged past us on their return trip. A boy sat on a rock facing the ocean. A woman danced on a boulder.

It wasn’t even 8 am yet, and we had the whole day ahead of us, the whole year ahead of us.

How did you celebrate the new year? What do you look forward to in 2018?

Looking back at 2017

January 2, 2018

This year, we are embarking on the ninth year of Better Hawai’i. I would like to thank all of you, Better Hawai’i readers, for following my blog or just stopping by now and again to read or post a comment. I know that there are so many other things you could be doing, and I appreciate any time you spend thinking about making Hawai‘i and ourselves better.

Looking back on 2017, here are five posts about the local issues and ideas that affected me.

Health. “Full circle about single-payer health insurance” (February 21, 2017)
I was beguiled by the idea of single-payer health insurance, until I realized that the single-payer would be a government payer. I’ve come full circle, skeptical that single-payer health insurance would be an improvement over our current healthcare system.

Community. “Benefits of joining a nonprofit board” (May 16, 2017)
Share your skills. You may have “hidden strengths” that are unrelated to your current job or may have big ideas that don’t fit with your current job position, boss, or company. By volunteering for committees and programs, you have more opportunities to share your skills or explore new talents. Board experience can make a difference to the community and your career too.

Economy. “A two minimum wage proposal” (June 13, 2017)
Rather than debating the value of the minimum wage, I would like to propose that we create two categories of wages: minimum wages and minimum living wages. The minimum wage would be the lowest wage that entry-level, unskilled employees earn. It means that businesses could limit their up-front investment in an employee who will only be temporary. The minimum living wage would be the lowest wage for more experienced, skilled employees who have worked part-time or full-time for an business for over one year. It would put into law the current practice of offering employees raises during annual performance reviews.

 Government. “Reimagining the Neighborhood Board” (August 15, 2017)
…What I strongly support is the monthly neighborhood meetings, rather than the Neighborhood Board itself… We could change the focus from a “Board” to a “Forum” completely. We could keep the monthly “Town Hall” meetings with City Councilmembers, State Senators, State Representatives, and representatives from the Mayor’s Office, Police Department, and Fire Department, but instead of Board members, elect “Community Coordinators” who would organize and run meetings.

 Education. “Success and the well-balanced student” (October 10, 2017)
It’s the kid, not the school. Success is not a straight line, from grade school to college to a good job to happiness, Dr. Pope declared. Attending a “good” school and getting a “good” job will not guarantee happiness or success. Rather, success is a meandering path, with unexpected turns and setbacks, and there is no one path to success that fits everyone. So we need to redefine what success means.

 What are your highlights from 2017? What local issues and ideas affected you last year, and what do you hope to focus on this year?


Clipart courtesy of

Planning a benefit concert on a budget

December 12, 2017

Earlier this year, I helped plan a benefit concert. It was a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization, and in the beginning it seemed like a straight-forward event. We had a dedicated volunteer with a lot of energy and drive. We had performers. We had a venue. We even had a grant to cover concert expenses, like the invitations, program, security, and parking attendants.

In the end, we pulled off a successful event. We had a respectable number of attendees for a stormy night. The attendees, performers, organization staff, and venue staff were pleased. We raised more money than we expected. There were no problems or “uh-oh” moments.

It’s the middle part of event planning that was stressful. There’s more involved to planning a successful fundraising event than sending out invitations and waiting for people to show up.

You can find comprehensive fundraising checklists and event plans online, but here are a few insights that I learned from planning a benefit concert on a small budget.

* Build a trifecta of partners. For a well-planned event on a budget, you really need a trifecta of strategic partners: an expert (someone with knowledge, talent, content, or connections), a venue (someone with a good location), and a media outlet (someone with print, radio, television, or website reach). A donor or sponsor (someone with money) is nice to have, and can let you expand the event; but without the three key partners, it’s hard to keep to a modest budget.

* Budget more time than you think you’ll need — you’ll need that extra time. Event planning consumed a lot more time than I expected. Even adding extra days to our timeline wasn’t enough; we were constantly running behind, because we can’t control how other people use their time.

* Show them a glimpse of what’s to come. Share a short rehearsal video online to encourage people to attend the concert, inspire volunteers, and energize performers. It doesn’t have to be polished – in fact, releasing a candid, behind-the-scenes video can give acquaintances the feeling of being insiders.

* Find volunteers – early. I waited until the last weeks before the event to look for volunteers, and it was a scramble to assign tasks. You can learn from my mistake, and ask for volunteers early on. In fact, over the last few weeks before the event, you can email weekly updates to keep concert performers, staff, and board members informed and excited.

* Add something unexpected. Show your appreciation for concert attendees, as our volunteer organizer did when he created a songbook to give to attendees after the event. And show your appreciation for event volunteers, before, during, and after the event. Our volunteer organizer shared his enthusiasm through a songbook that was given to attendees after the concert. You probably can’t afford an honorarium, but if you have a hobby (like knitting, pottery, or jewelry-making), you could create small, hand-made gifts that have more meaning than a store-bought gift. Plus, you can spend time doing something you enjoy.

One final thought: People attend benefit concerts for many reasons. They may simply enjoy music, or want to spend time with other people, or know the performers, or feel loyalty to your organization. But the most important reason is to support the children, individuals, and families who need a helping hand.

Which events or fundraisers impressed you with something well-coordinated or surprising (in a good way)? Have you ever planned a corporate event or fundraiser? If yes, what worked well – and what do you wish you had known?



Artwork courtesy of

Receiving more than you give on GivingTuesday

November 28, 2017

I’d like to share with you a giving story. Rose lives on a fixed income, but her one-bedroom apartment is filled with things that she buys to give away to others. She donates time and money to her church. She donates food to a nearby Foodbank. She visits with an elderly neighbor who now lives in a care home, bringing food and offering companionship. She doesn’t need special recognition for giving, but she inspires me, and I hope she inspires you.

Today is GivingTuesday, a global day of giving, and I hope you will join me in giving back in some way. It’s not just about money – you can give your time to a nonprofit, your skills to a charity, your goods to someone in need, and your voice to a cause.

Today in Honolulu, learn about Hawai‘i Community Foundation at their Giving Tuesday pop-up party the corner of Bishop and King Street between 6 am and 8:30 am. Eat a morning snack and enter to win a grant for a nonprofit of your choice, given in your name. Ask about how you can make smart and meaningful choices when you donate to a local nonprofit.

Tonight in Honolulu, sign up for a paint party at Painting with a Purpose from 7 pm to 9 pm to benefit the Hawaii Opera Theatre. Attendees will receive step-by-step instructions for creating a beautiful 16”x20” canvas, all materials provided, with half the proceeds benefiting HOT.

Over the next few weeks across Hawai‘i, support The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Giving Program, November 24 through December 24, 2017. You can find Angel Trees in various malls, Burger King restaurants, and Central Pacific Bank branches. Pick an angel, buy a gift, and return both tag and gift to the Angel Tree location. Help make holiday wishes come true for underprivileged children in Hawai‘i.

However you give, share it with the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #GivingTuesdayHI and challenge others to give.

“When you give yourself, you receive more than you give” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

5 more ways to be kind

November 14, 2017

Today is the day after World Kindness Day, but we can’t limit ourselves to one day of kindness. A small kindness can have a big impact; it can brighten a lackluster day and turbo-charge an ordinary day.

 Sometimes overlooked or under-appreciated, here are 5 more ways to be kind: 

1. Be kind in online comments. Every news story has supporters and detractors, and online news sites let reader post comments anonymously. It’s easy to forget that there are real people behind those usernames. It’s even easier to type negative remarks or bullying comments that you probably wouldn’t say face-to-face. You can be respectful even when you disagree with someone.

2. Be kind on social media. Sometimes social media helps you create an idealized image of your life. Sometimes social media lets you vent your anger, fears, and frustration. When you see glimpses of other people’s amazing, awesome lives, don’t compare them with your own life. And when you read about or share depressing or horrifying news, balance it with a little kindness in your social media feed.

3. Be kind to our past self. We sometimes think the worst of our younger selves, dwelling on past mistakes and failures, instead of focusing on our past accomplishments. I’m guilty of this – I often find myself unintentionally replaying embarrassing moments and disappointments, even though I don’t want to remember them. I can’t seem to stop myself. But if you can forgive a past mistake or mischief in someone else, then you can forgive your younger self.

4. And be kind to your future self. We sometimes have unrealistically high expectations of our future selves, setting ambitious goals and over-committing our time and energy, instead of setting realistic goals and respecting our time in the future. Treat your future self will as much care as yourself today, being careful of your future self’s time and money, suggests productivity blogger and author Chris Bailey in his book “The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time” (2017).

5. Appreciate other people’s acts of kindness. There is kindness all around us, but often these small, everyday courtesies go unnoticed. As you do small acts of kindness, be aware of the small acts of kindness that you see – and that happen to you.

Do you perform random acts of kindness? What is the kindest thing someone has done for you recently?

Make a Difference Day 2017

October 24, 2017

Art is one way I choose to make a difference.

This month, our local children’s ceramics class finished a small tile mural. It started as a dream of beautifying our neighborhood park with art. I wanted children to come to the park and point out a tile they made last year, or two years ago, or (in the future) twenty years ago. Over four class sessions, with the support and hard work of the ceramics class instructor, Ida, children ages 6 to 16 created a tile mural that celebrates our community.

Sometimes we can make a difference with a community venture or a long-term project. Sometimes we can make a difference in just a day. On October 28th, 2017, volunteers are coming together for Make A Difference Day, a nationwide day of service. Every hour we can give matters.

Here are just a few of the Make a Difference Day events on October 28 in Hawaii:

* Honolulu, 10 am to 12 pm. Manoa/Woodlawn Adopt-a-Stream. Join Malama Manoa to remove trash and debris from Manoa stream along Woodland Drive. Volunteers must be 12 years of age or older to participate in clean-up events around the island. Minors must bring parent/guardian signed waiver. For more information call 768-4319.

* Honolulu, 9 am to 12 pm. Pearl Haven Cleanup. Pearl Haven is the future site of a specialized residential treatment facility with comprehensive wrap around services for adolescent girls who are high risk or who have been sexually exploited. The project is a yard/land clean up and maintenance landscaping day, with a history of the site and the organization and a brief tour.

* Kapolei, Waianae, Wahiawa, Waimanalo, and Waipahu, 11 am to 12:30 pm. Honolulu, 12 pm to 1:30 pm. Ohana100 GO! READ. Help promote literacy by reading with children, engaging in literacy activities, and offering them a new book at participating sites around Oahu.

* Sunset Beach, 9 am to 12 pm. Pūpūkea Paumalū Community Work Day. Volunteers needed to help maintain the trail from Sunset Beach Elementary School to the pillbox. Bring a reusable water bottle and wear closed toe shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Tools, water, and light snacks will be provided. Meet in the SBES lower parking lot. Contact

* Waimea Valley, 9 am to 3 pm. Waimea Valley Workday. Volunteers are needed to help with native planting and invasive species control on Kalaheʻe Ridge. Email Laurent to RSVP.

Ready to run for a cause?

* Kailua, 7 am to 10 am, Family Promise 5k Fun Run. Raise money and awareness for families with keiki struggling with homelessness. Wear your Halloween costume. Race/walk starts at Kailua Intermediate School.

There are many ways to volunteer in the community, on Make a Difference Day and any day. What kind of difference do you want to make in your community?