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February 3, 2020

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New Video Highlights Training

An important aspect of the PQ model is staff development and the opportunity to learn and grow alongside our students. 

Staff members recently participated in a company-wide training focused on Horticultural Therapy and Rites of Passage.  It was a great opportunity for the team to come together on our new farm property and have time to connect while learning new skills and strategies to work with our students.

One of the main goals was to emphasize the importance of how to incorporate these various lessons and projects into the daily routine with students. PQ Field Therapist Sarah Blechman, MSSW, who helped organize and facilitate the training comments, “The whole day was so engaging! It was abundantly clear the facilitators were authentically passionate about the rich union and incredible effects of the interplay between horticulture, rites of passage and how to facilitate the two using the neurosequential model. My favorite part was when our program guides, managers and therapists all worked together to create our first garden bed in our ethnobotanical garden. Working on such a large project together felt like the whole community was working on a gift for our new farm.”

Many thanks to Nick Vejvoda, Adolescent Field Manager, who made this video!

WATCH the video here!

October 11, 2017

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Healthy Self = Heal + Thy + Self

By: Cynthia Albers, Admissions Coordinator

Harvesting fresh green beans from the garden

There is an onslaught of advice, cautions, directives and warnings supposedly to guide us toward a healthy lifestyle.  So, what, exactly, does it mean to be healthy?  What does healthy feel like?  At Pacific Quest students are given the opportunity to ask themselves this same question and discern what that means to them by practicing the five pillars of health…and nutrition is on that list. I asked myself those questions starting around age 16 and now into my 7th decade, many choices, actions and paths have brought me to the happy condition of enjoying health.  Undeniably, food and all that surrounds it, has played a big part.  Here’s part of that story…

I grew up with 8 siblings, birth position 2, in Maryland, just south of the Mason-Dixon line. At age 6, our brood moved into a home my parents built in the country, where we kids quickly learned the joy and freedom of roaming the woods, waterfront and fields that were part of our new domain.  Our diet was like that of most Americans of the era: 3 squares a day, with flesh featured at dinner; milk, kool-aid, water and the occasional soda pop for beverages; sandwiches of lunch meat or tuna on white Wonder Bread for school lunch, and hot or cold cereal with milk for most breakfasts. Stony Creek, an inlet to the Chesapeake Bay, supplied fresh fish and crabs, caught by our own hands, so seafood was frequently on the menu. A garden plot was carved out and tended by the clan.  As kids, we hated it!  All that work that took us away from exploring. But then, came the strawberries, cantaloupes, green beans, kale and corn on the cob, which we frequently ate right off the stalk ~ raw and full of  sweet goodness!  I began to realize how yummy these foods were, especially compared to the slimy, horrid mash that is canned spinach in the dead of winter.  I was developing a deep connection to sourcing my own food, though I had no idea at the time.

Late summers were spent helping my mother with canning: prepping and blanching corn, tomatoes and green beans, then ladling the hot veggies into sterilized jars; turn ‘em upside down to wait for the tell-tale “Pop!” signaling the seal. In the damp coolness of Autumn we took frenzied forays into conifer forests, with cousins galore, each of us given a large brown paper grocery bag and entrusted with a serrated knife. We were set loose to find and sever the wild mushrooms that lay hidden in beds of pine needles.  Now that was my kinda fun! Many bushel baskets were fungi-filled, and the families joined at our house for cleaning and sautéing the ‘shrooms with onions and butter, then filling quart plastic bags to be frozen. The bounty was distributed among the families and was served at holiday dinners all winter.

The desire to gather and grow food had inculcated my sensibilities and would last a lifetime.

Preparing a healthy meal at PQ

Fulfilling that desire has waxed and waned over the years, changing with occupation, domicile, region and season.  On the shores of Hood Canal, Washington, oysters were free for the plucking and shucking, along with wild blackberries copious along roadways. Montana mountains gave huckleberries by the bucketful, boletes and coral mushrooms to fill the pot; hunter friends who shared venison, bear (yes, bear) and elk sausage satisfied my omnivore leanings. In Hawaii, where a third of my years were lived, our jungle homestead boasted 4 varieties of avocado, papayas, bananas, citrus, and required the patience of 2 years for white pineapples; collards were endless and found their way into nearly every dinner dish.

Now, home is the high desert mountains of the Southern Sierra, gardening in this arid climate with mostly granitic soil beckons an entirely new approach. Apricot, pomegranate and mulberry trees grow most willingly here and also resist the nibbling of deer above ground and gopher below. I’ll undoubtedly find ways to forage and grow food to fuel both the yearnings and health. Doing so feeds more than the just my body…it feeds my soul.   Pacific Quest fosters ways for students and staff alike to build a meaningful connection to food and nutrition.  May connections realized at PQ stay with each of us for a lifetime and fuel health for years to come.

August 20, 2017

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Adventure to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

A group of PQ students recently has an adventure at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! The group packed up the cars and headed up the Southeastern coast towards the park, listening to music and playing fun games along the way. The car ride followed a highway that took the group past stunning panoramic ocean views over Whittington beach park, where everyone could see the Pacific ocean spanning off into the horizon. The group also drove through the Ka’u desert, into the lowland Ohi’a Lehua forest on the gentle slopes of Mauna Loa, and finally into the national park and its vast, lush expanses of tropical forests.

The first stop on this outing was the Thurston Lava Tube.  Known as Nāhuku, the lava tube was discovered (or possibly re-discovered) in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local news publisher at the time. The group stopped for a brief lesson on how lava tubes are formed before setting off on a winding trail through a forest of tree ferns.  At the bottom of the trail the large, ominous mouth of the lava tube became visible and the group was soon inside it’s lighted passageways. The group entered the tube and took a moment of stillness to observe the cavernous silence of the tube, imagining a river of molten lava flowing through the spot where they were standing over one hundred years ago. After this moment, the group took a few group photos and then made their way through the remainder of the tunnel, pausing to touch the walls of the tube, feel the moisture and moss, and observe spiderwebs hang from lights lining the tube. At the end of the tunnel, everyone made their way up a series of winding staircases that joined a path to complete the trail loop.  After the lava tube, everyone was ready for lunch. The group enjoyed a picnic while a student read stories about Pele, the goddess of fire, and her journey through the Hawaiian islands before finally finding a home in a crater at the national park.

After lunch, the group was ready to head out on the next excursion, a trek that would take them around and across the floor of the nearby Kilauea Iki crater. Descending again through the lush rainforest, the students arrived on the crater floor. The crater’s most recent natural history is dominated by a 1959 vent eruption that spewed a curtain of lava 1900 feet into the air for five weeks. This eruption filled the valley floor to create a lake of lava weighing an estimated 86 million tons and rising to a depth of 400 feet. As the group walked and talked together, they couldn’t help but pause periodically to marvel at the natural beauty of the crater as everyone looked out in awe over the crater, under Mauna Loa, and across the steam vents.

As the group continued across the crater floor, everyone paused to learn about and observe some of the steam vents, and look for interesting geologic marvels such as ‘Pele’s Hair’ – thin strands of rock lifted from the lava lake of Kilauea’s caldera and blown by the wind to settle in cracks and crevices all over the surrounding area. Students marveled at the Ohi’a Lehua trees that took root in the otherwise desolate crater floor, ruminating on how life finds a way to endure, even in the harshest conditions.  Everyone hiked back up the switchbacks on the opposite side of the crater and made the short hike back through the rainforest to where the cars were parked. Just before leaving the crater, the group stopped at an overlook to take one last look at how vast the crater was and how far they had come. A tired, but very fulfilled ohana climbed back into the cars to relax and reflect on the ride back to Pacific Quest.

March 7, 2017

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Pacific Quest Video Series :: Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist

“Happiness, fulfillment, and joy in everyday life should be the bar we set… instead of taking an extreme view, I strive to take a wise, balanced, and integrative approach.” -Dr. Voloshin

Pacific Quest has an incredible new member of our Clinical and Wellness teams, Dr. Robert Voloshin, Integrative Psychiatrist. Dr. Robert Voloshin is leading the Integrative Psychiatry team at Pacific Quest with the goal of cultivating mental health for our students. The Pacific Quest integrative psychiatric model is unique in its methods of treatment.  It combines psychiatric care with naturopathic medicine allowing treatment to be individualized to the needs of each student, achieving a dynamic and comprehensive treatment approach.

Dr. Robert Voloshin: Pacific Quest Integrative Psychiatrist

“Integrative psychiatry is a way of approaching adolescents and young adults from multiple different perspectives. We use the perspectives of modern psychiatry, naturopathic medicine, developmental psychology and family systems to understand the young people and families we work with …”

As a lifelong observer of the human condition, he was innately curious about “what makes us well and what makes us sick.” Through medical school, residency, fellowship and beyond, his training in psychology and psychiatry led him to the conclusion that the origins of our mental health or lack thereof stems from our early years and our family systems, which led to his pursuit of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Read More

February 13, 2017

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Oh Coconuts!

By Kate Goodwin, Young Adult Wellness Medical Supervisor

Coconut Harvest at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Coconut has many uses and health benefits

The tropical coconut is an incredible superfood with endless uses, especially in Polynesian cultures.  The Hawaiians used “Niu” or coconut for drink, food, thatching, hats, baskets, furniture, mats, cordage, clothing, charcoal, brooms, fans, ornaments, musical instruments, shampoo, containers, oil for fuel, light, ointments, soap and more.

Traditionally, a coconut palm was planted at a Hawaiian’s birth with a he’e (octopus) under it for fertilizer.  After the tree fruits at age seven, it will continue to fruit for 70-100 years to provide food for the individual or community.  Just one tree can produce 50 coconuts a year!

Coconut meat contains high quantities of lauric acid, a rare medium-chain saturated fatty acid.  Lauric acid is the reason coconut oil is so good for your skin, it can reduce bacterial and fungal infections while moisturizing.  Consuming the coconut meat provides B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.  Coconut water is an alkali producer in the digestive system and can help balance the body’s pH.  The water inside a coconut is sterile, yet packed with nutrients and electrolytes, it could even be used in a pinch for IV rehydration.

During a recent wellness training with Annie, the students learned how to pick a perfect coconut and “tap” into it to drink the water.  The coconuts were then cracked open to enjoy the delicious meat inside.  They also learned how to fashion a makeshift deodorant out of coconut oil as well as learning how the niu is culturally relevant to the Hawaiians.

How to select the perfect drinking coconut:

Coconut Harvest at Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Coconut ready for drinking!

The perfect drinking coconut is full-sized, yet immature. Green and picked from the tree is ideal (yellow color and found on the ground is okay and still delicious).

Up to one quart of water is inside, but you should not hear “sloshing” when you shake it.  If the nut sloshes, it is no longer sterile and could cause some digestive irritation.

The yellow or browning coconut is mature when it drops to the ground. There is still some water in the cavity, which can be combined to make coconut milk. Coconut milk is a blend of coconut water and the scrapings of the coconut meat. This milk is a good source of iron and contains calcium, phosphorus, protein and vitamins.

Wahi ka niu, break open the coconut!

February 8, 2017

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Pacific Quest Video Series :: Student Testimonial

Pacific quest changed my life; I realize now that nothing is impossible. With just some water and a seed I can create a whole ecosystem of life. Life at Pacific Quest helped me express my emotions in a positive way. Pacific Quest will change your life, too, if you just let it.” – Pacific Quest student testimonial

Pacific Quest: True To Our Testimonials

Pacific Quest is an internationally-recognized residential wilderness therapy program based in Hawaii that serves struggling teens and young adults from around the world. Our testimonials show just how Pacific Quest goes beyond traditional wilderness therapy programs: by cultivating change through sustainable growth. Our outdoor wilderness therapy and horticulture therapy programs teach sustainable life skills in a clinically innovative and nurturing environment. It helps young people make better choices and live healthier, more productive lives.

The many amazing testimonials from both alumni and their parents point to the pivotal changes made to each and every student who was ready for positive change. The testimonials also speak to the invaluable lessons and experiences students have had that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. Read more incredible testimonials on just how and why Pacific Quest is consistently sought after as the best wilderness therapy program.

The Pacific Quest Program Through Testimonials

“My negative emotions were affecting everyone around me and I was out of control. I didn’t care about life and that was obvious by my behavior. It was a sad and difficult time for me and my family.”

Read More

January 31, 2017

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Pacific Quest Video Series :: Travis Slagle On Horticulture Therapy

“What I find in horticultural therapy that I couldn’t find when I worked in wilderness therapy, adventure therapy and even ropes courses, was the sense of purpose: A sense of purpose and adventure in creating a more sustainable life.” -Travis Slagle, Horticulture Therapy Director

What is Horticulture Therapy

Horticulture has been used as a therapeutic discipline since ancient times. As far back as 2000 BC in Mesopotamia horticulture was used to calm the senses and around 500 BC, the Persians began creating gardens to “please all of the senses.”

“Horticultural Therapy” is based on an ancient practice and has a relatively new title that combines horticulture and rehabilitation disciplines. It employs plants and gardening activities in therapeutic and rehabilitation activities to improve human wellness, showing tremendous positive results for troubled teens and young adults. However, despite its long use in the fields of physical therapy, psychiatric occupational and recreational rehabilitation, awareness about the efficacy of horticulture therapy is still limited.

Since human beings actually evolved from and in a natural environment, an intrinsic physiologic and psychological positive reaction to nature has developed that is involved in maintaining our homeostasis. As Travis says in his video, “One of the most challenging things in our world today is Read More

December 20, 2016

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Harvesting Turmeric at PQ!

Turmeric – a distinctly earthy, orange-golden spice is often overlooked in many kitchens, but proves to be a great culinary addition with a fantastic and bright presentation. For over 5,000 years, this plant has been cultivated and harvested in tropical Asian countries as well as its homeland, India, where it is considered auspicious and holy. Turmeric is well known in many countries to add health benefits to any meal and has a strong presence in Ayurvedic medicine. In its early history it was used as a dye and then later for its health benefits.

The turmeric spice is derived from Curcuma longa which is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant in the ginger family. This means that the turmeric root not only grows vertically, but horizontally. This can result in the finger like nodules that are typically present. Inside the turmeric root is where the wonderful curcuminoids, or biologically available parts, are found. Curcumin is the most powerful of the curcuminoids found in turmeric and usually only composes 3.14% of turmeric powder found in stores. Curcumin in a concentrated form is sold as an herbal supplement, cosmetic ingredient, food flavoring and coloring.

The amazing health effects that Curcumin has are credited to it being a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound. This golden ingredient has shown to help with joint pain and other inflammation and/or pain, as well as having anti-tumor, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Turmeric has been used for centuries to aid in liver detoxification and promote stomach and gut healing.

When turmeric is used with black pepper, the effects are greatly increased and it adds another dimension to this earthy flavor. The piperine in pepper helps our bodies absorb and use the curcuminoids more effectively.

During today’s wellness lesson, this information was shared with the Ohana (students and staff) and brought to life by making Golden Milk. The recipe found in the next blog post was used to make a big, 15 person batch of beautifully earthy golden milk for the Ohana.

Just three days ago, the Ohana harvested an entire 5-gallon bucket (13 pounds!!) of turmeric from our garden. The roots were then processed and either set aside for meal additions this week or used for the golden milk (see recipe in next post). After the lesson today, Jack, one of our new Akahi students, said “Wow. I didn’t really know what turmeric was before this. This stuff is so neat…I have never really gardened before and this stuff is pretty cool.”

By: Kate Goodwin, Wellness Medical Supervisor

September 20, 2016

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Guiding the Guides: The Unique Role of the Master Guide – Part III

By:  Clementine Wilson, Adolescent Field Manager & Jody St. Joseph, Adolescent Program Director

This three part series focuses on the Master Guide position and the significance of this special role at Pacific Quest. The first entry looked at the role itself and highlighted Nikki Robinson.  Part II introduced Master Guide Alyson Alde.  In this third and final entry we meet Nick Olson and learn about his focus within this role!

Meet Nick Olson

Master Guide Position: Pacific Quest Wilderness Therapy Program

Nick working with a student on the land.

Nick hails from the high plains of Wyoming. There his wonderful parents worked diligently to instill in him a strong connection to a healthy diet, gardening and traveling. He studied International Studies at the University of Wyoming and in embracing his dream of vagabonding, traveled for two years following college. In the backwoods of Thailand with rambunctious kids, he realized that playing with youth in the dirt rules.

Nick started at Pacific Quest in March of 2015. He finds purpose in this job by helping students foster their own connection with the land, their food and their own self worth. He pulls from growing up in his tight knit community to help students build their sense of responsibility to their community, both here at Pacific Quest and back home. It’s a good day for Nick when his students find themselves deep in conversation, comfortably seated on the earth with their hands in the soil.  He comments, “What motivates me here at Pacific Quest  is when a student transforms a section of the garden and through their hard work they get invested and connected with the well-being of the land.”  As a master guide he hopes to help garden-shy guides feel more comfortable working on the land and getting their hands dirty.

In his off time he enjoys the quirkiness of Hilo, the comfort of his porch swing and the adventures with his community here on the Big Island.

July 11, 2016

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The Power of Water, The Practice of Ho’oponopono

By: Jenny Stulck, MS, LPCA
Primary Therapist

In my early twenties, I fulfilled a dream of mine and became a raft guide on the New and Gauley rivers of West Virginia. Last month the areas surrounding those rivers have been severely flooded. On social media I watched as friends in West Virginia posted photos of people who had lost their homes, lost their cars, and some lost loved ones. I am reminded, again, how powerful water is. I grew an immense respect for the waters as a raft guide. I believe the waters are a teacher of ancient lessons. In my journey to the Ganges River in India, I watched as people prayed day and night at the banks of the river. In West Virginia I learned how to read the water, how to respect it, how to work with it. In India I learned how to be in sacrament with it. One has to work with the water, never against it. Water must be accepted.

Jenny Stulck, MS, LPCA

Jenny Stulck, MS, LPCA

Water is our life force. We cannot survive as humans on this planet without it. We need it for our bodies. We use it for our washing. We use it to move our sewage. We swim in it when we are hot. We play in it because it’s fun.

A therapeutic group I like to run is based around water and the practice of Ho’oponopono. Ho’opononpono is an ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness. It essentially means: I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.

For this therapy group, I bring a singing bowl full of water and play the singing bowl to center everyone. I show them the patterns that emerge in the water as the singing bowl rings. We discuss water, the mystery, the need, the beauty and the destruction it serves. I ask the students, “What is your relationship with water?” Invariably, students describe a relationship where they are receiving from water, rarely are they giving to water. I ask them, “Is there any other relationship in your life, like the one you have with water?” Often, someone in the group says the relationship with their parents is like that of the one they have with water. We talk about the similarities of these relationships. The ways in which parents have provided them with food and shelter, love, lessons, and how as children they were unable to take care of themselves. They needed their parents for survival. This is often an emotional group for students, as they reflect the ways they have been ungrateful in the past. I share with them a song that are the words: Ho’oponopono, Ho’oponopono. I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, thank you.

We talk about the practice of Ho’oponopono. The practice starts with yourself, and then ripples out to the other people in your life. The practice is to find within yourself the love and ability to forgive and accept that forgiveness. Ho’oponopono starts with the willingness to love and be loved. Many students arrive at Pacific Quest who have lost a connection with their inner self love. Water, and our relationship to it, is a reminder of the reflection we need to take in order to find peace within ourselves.

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