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June 6, 2011

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Defining “kuleana”

The Hawaiian term “kuleana” is quite difficult to define.  The literal translation, as I have heard, is “responsibility.” Kuleana means much more than that, as it seems to include a broader sense of responsibility –  a person’s responsibility to themselves and his/her community.  At PQ, we have named the second stage of growth Kuleana.  We have created a camp that aims to teach students that their kuleana for themselves will be a foundation to how they can interact with their families and communities.  In the second stage of growth we help students “claiming their kuleana” by practicing self honesty, accountability, integrity, and developing healthy coping skills to manage uncomfortable emotions.  This is usually evident in the way that their actions and words align.

I asked a group of PQ students to define what kuleana means to them and how that particular camp (or stage of growth) provided skills for life.  Below is the description produced by the group.

Kuleana means responsibility.  Responsibility means taking accountability for your own actions.  It applies to life in every single way.  Some struggles that we’ve encountered here have just been accepting that we’re here and that we needed to start being present and actually be responsible for our own actions here.  It also applies to  being responsible for past actions. 

Some tools I’ve learned while in Kuleana were exercising when becoming anxious or pissed off.  Journaling is another good toll for many people.  It helps getting out emotions and it relieves stress as well.  Being honest with ourselves and focusing on things that are in our control were two really good lessons.

You have to be responsible for yourself in order to keep your self. If you have a job then you have to be responsible for your work or else you will get fired.  responsibility is one of the key factors of becoming and being an adult.

I am really impressed by the students embodiment of kuleana.  They seem to be applying it much beyond the simplistic term “responsibility.”

April 29, 2011

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Ohana Visits the Volcano Art Center

Today the Ohana went to the Volcano Art Center (VAC). The VAC is a nonprofit educational organization located in and around Hawaii Volcano National Park. Their mission is to promote, develop, and perpetuate the artistic and cultural heritage of Hawaii’s people and environment through activities in the visual, literary, and performing arts. The Ohana had the sweet opportunity to have a personal tour of a Hawaiian rain forest by a park botanist. Ohana members were taught how to identify the 4 components that make up the lush Hawaiian Rain Forest.
Ohana Visits the Volcano Art Center - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults
After a self- confidence boosting lunch conversation surrounding what “awesome” things the students accomplished in life, it was time to get dirty.  The group gave their “malama” (care) to the community by digging out the well known invasive species kahili ginger. Kahili ginger was brought over by the Polynesians as a decorative flower and is now over taking the important middle story plants that are essential in the Hawaiian rain forest. The ohana geared up with large trash bags and sturdy hand picks to tackle the invasive plants. A challenge to see which student could pick the most ginger was put into place. The Ohana started digging with enthusiasm and filled large bags to the brim. In the end the Ohana transformed a small section of the forest, making quite a difference.

Ohana Visits the Volcano Art Center - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young AdultsOhana Visits the Volcano Art Center - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults


April 25, 2011

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Pacific Quest Ohana Volunteering with Ka’u Main Street at the Naohuleua Historical Garden

The second Saturday of every month Pacific Quest puts on their work gloves and heads off the farm over to the Naohuleua Historical Garden.  Students volunteer to work with Ka’u Main Street in an effort to keep the native garden blooming. Ka’u Main street is a Non-profit organization that was formed in 1991 to protect the economic future of the Ka’u downtown areas and rural communities.

Volunteering at the Naohuleua Historical Garden - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Naohuleua Historical Garden is located on a beautiful 1864 Roman Catholic church site, rescued from being torn down 3 years ago, Ka’u Main Street was able to save the church and plant native Hawaiian plants as well as Canoe plants ( plants brought over to the island by the Polynesians ) on the surrounding property.

Volunteering at the Naohuleua Historical Garden - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Pacific Quest is able to contribute by planting, weeding and developing the Historical Garden to its fullest. Students also help by collecting Kukui nuts and seed clippings of the Hibiscus (Hawaii’s state flower).  This was a big job, and great service work to contribute to help preserve the town history. In addition, On March 11 the students of Pacific Quest created a detailed map to scale of the Garden.  The map will be published and colored.

Volunteering at the Naohuleua Historical Garden - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Click here to find out more about Ka’u Main street and the Historical Garden Project

Volunteering at the Naohuleua Historical Garden - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young AdultsVolunteering at the Naohuleua Historical Garden - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults


March 25, 2011

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Big Island, (award winning) Small Business

Pacific Quest was named the Big Island’s top small business in 2011 by the Small Business Administration.  Pacific Quest was recognized for job creation, growth in annual revenue, innovation, staying power and contributions to the community. Learn more from the article published in the West Hawaii Today.

November 10, 2010

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Lassoing Weeds – Community Service Project

Community Service Project - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Last Saturday the Ohana group participated in a community service project at Punaluu Beach Park.  Punaluu is one of the largest black sand beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii and is located about 30 minutes from the PQ campus.  It is most famously known for the green sea turtles that come to rest and raise their body temperatures during the day but has far more historical and cultural significance.  Fed by several fresh water springs it is believed that in times of drought Hawaiians would dive with gourds to capture drinking water.  There is also a large fresh water pond that is home to many different kinds of fish and wildlife.  Unfortunately the pond has been overrun with a noxious plant which suffocates the fish and makes it impossible for other wildlife to enjoy their habitat.  Three times a year the community of Kau comes together to clean the water, lassoing the weeds with a water rope and dragging them onto the shore.  Our students worked side by side with other community members to care for the land and give back to an area where they often enjoy swimming and viewing marine life.


April 23, 2010

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Niaulani forest community service

Our mission today was to help out with the Niaulani Forest Work Day.
The four-acre forest at Niaulani is located in a remnant of old-growth rain forest dominated by tall, large-diameter ‘ohi’a trees, some over 65 feet tall. Many species of native plants populate the forest understory at Niaulani, including the rare meu tree fern. Due to the collective diligence in weed removal over the last decade, visitors can now view native representations of the pepper, ginseng, lily, holly, and other plant families that have started to flourish in the understory.

Work days are perfect opportunities for people to help conserve one of the last remaining native rainforests in the Kilauea summit region outside of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. As Tunison explains, “The goal of forest restoration is to perpetuate a diverse, largely self-sustaining native rainforest community that provides opportunities for education, a model of stewardship for the community, and inspiration for artists.”
We were greeted by out guide and some other local volunteers. We were told that we were looking to rid or should i say help rid the forest of an invasive type of Ginger plant. Right away we knew we were perfect for the job when handed tools that are very familiar to us (hand picks and bags for weeds!)

Before we started on the extracting of ginger we were given an educational tour around the forest. The students were able to pick up a few new pieces of information and a chance to show off what they already know. After our tour we got right down to business. WOW did we get a whole lot of ginger! I am hoping this is the start of a new relationship with the Niaulani Forest so we can continue to help restore this beautiful forest.

We finished up by filling our bags as much as possible, saying our thanks and hopes to come back, then jumping into the car to head to Punalu’u Black Sands Beach for some lunch and relaxed fun.

February 27, 2010

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Tsunami warning in coastal regions of Hawaii is lifted

Tsunami warning in coastal regions of Hawaii is lifted - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

Photo by Clark Little

While Pacific Quest’s students were nestled in the hills high in Kau and well out of any tsunami danger zones (roughly 1500 feet in elevation), coastal regions in Hawaii today were on high alert.  As many followed the news on their computers and televisions many Hawaii residents were forced to evacuate their homes and head for higher ground, relying on radio broadcasts.  Luckily the event was not much more than a scare (the above photo is just a cool Hawaii wave).  It turned out to be an incredible community building event that actually brought people closer together.

I was awoken to a phone call at 3:15 am this morning from a frantic friend suggesting that I evacuate my house.  I live very close to the beach in Hilo, an area particularly prone to tsunami damage.  Having visited the Pacific Tsunami Museum on the bay front in Hilo in the past, I new the potential power of the natural phenomenon.  Hilo has been struck by tsunamis in 1940’s and 60’s leaving buildings and home completely destroyed.  With my adrenaline pumping I threw my valuable belongings in my truck and drove mauka (toward the volcano).

I found a nice view of the bay and backed my truck in next to others who were already parked.  We watched the sunrise and talked story as others continued to gather.  As the tsunami hour approached more and more people kept coming.  The crowd resembled that which one might see at a parade.  People were coming down from the volcano to get a better look at the approaching wave.  While the wave never really formed, the group enjoyed laughs and stories and it turned out to be a rather nice way to spend a Saturday morning.

For more information on tsunamis visit NOAA Pacific Tsunami warning center.  I want to reiterate that the PQ program is well out of harms way of tsunami danger and the students utilized this opportunity to learn more about earth science.



January 23, 2010

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Community Service 1/15/10

Community Service - Pacific Quest: Wilderness Therapy for Teens & Young Adults

On Friday Jan 15th the group visited the Na’alehu Community Center to help the O Kau Kakou organization set up for the community free dinner. The group was very helpful in arranging tables for the 100 or so people they expected to attend the dinner. The center bustled with the activity of many people preparing to serve the community. Participants of the Boys and Girls Club were there making signs for the evening too.  It was truly a community event. Everyone was very appreciative of our effort to help the success of this event.

The group was excited to learn of the pond cleanup that Wayne is coordinating next month.  Next, group spoke about leadership and shared about their experience that day.  To top off the great day the group went to Honu’apo for lunch and a bit of whale watching.


November 9, 2009

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Visit to Southern France Youth Institute

For many Pacific Quest students, the chance to grow and learn are best continued separate from their home environment. Students enroll in programs and schools around the country and the world. One of these special places is the Southern France Youth Institute in Villeseque sur Corbieres, France. In October, I visited this wonderful school as part of a pleasure trip to France. While SFYI does not consider itself a “therapeutic” school, many students who are exiting therapeutic programs end up here for a transition or “gap” year experience.

My visit was enhanced by the fact that three former Pacific Quest students are currently enrolled at SFYI. Even though it was just the beginning of the semester there (and one student was on a home visit), I sensed that they were in the right place and were going to be successful. With many of the tools that they brought from their Pacific Quest experience, they seemed well-prepared to live in a community atmosphere that requires responsibility, maturity and curiosity. I watched with delight as they rounded up the group for meals, contributed to class discussions and spoke and wrote honestly about their experiences and emtions. When I consider how far these students have come since they first arrived on the PQ land, I am inspired.

October 9, 2009

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Outing 10/2/09

The group started the outing by first visiting the black sand beach at Punaluu. The weather turned out to be cold and windy near the coastline so the students were not too enthused about going swimming. The group spent most of the day hiking around “talking story” (a Hawaiian term) about the history of the area and seeing the remains of ancient heiaus. The coastline has many scars and abandoned structures from past tsunamis. The guides were able to tie that in with recent events in the pacific. Despite the cold weather, there were quite a few turtles on shore for the students to see. While walking along the waters edge, Kavika explained about the importance of always keeping your eyes on the waves. At that moment he was drenched by wave after being distracted by a tide pool. The camera got wet and was placed in rice after the outing to accelerate drying. Pictures were lost!  The group concluded the day by heading uphill through a few scenic mountain roads. They stopped periodically to pick guavas, mac nuts and lilikoi. Kavika noted “It never ceases to amaze me how much the kids enjoy something as simple as picking guava on the side of the road.”