“If you come to the islands and you have all the fun, but you don’t understand more about the culture, then you’re missing out on what it really means to be here,” says Ann Hettinger, co-founder of the Aloha Movement Kauaʻi.
Like so many great stories, the Aloha Movement Kauaʻi began with an unlikely friendship between a 61-year-old white woman from the mainland and a 51-year-old native Hawaiian woman who was born and raised on Kauaʻi with and long lineage that is connected to many islands.
Hettinger moved to Kauaʻi from Colorado in 2000 and immediately fell in love with the garden isle, but immediately recognized how important it was to show the islands and the Hawaiian people respect. “I came here and started doing women’s retreats. I’d take groups stand up paddling, surfing, and hiking, but exposing them to the Hawaiian culture was really important to me.” Hettinger is 61 years old but has the unbridled energy of a teenager, chattering excitedly with a girlish giggle that punctuates most everything she says. Even though she has lived on Kauaʻi for almost 20 years, she still acknowledges that she is a transplant and feels a responsibility (kuleana) to give something back to the community who has embraced her.
Enter Lahela Keikila’au’o’wakanahele Chandler Correa, the Visitor Program Manager at Limahuli Gardens, where Hettinger would take small groups from her retreats. “One day I brought a group in and Lahela shared the meaning of Aloha. It was really beautiful; she touched all of our hearts. We were literally crying tears of joy,” Hettinger says. “In all the years I’ve lived here, I knew the word aloha and I understood it was a way of life and more than just a word, but until I met Lahela, I didn’t really understand what it meant. I thought, how can this be shared and kept alive?”
Correa is the real deal: a native of Kauaʻi, she was born and raised in the Wainiha Valley with 14 siblings. She says her parents taught her the meaning of aloha by example. “I’ve been waiting for a way to give back, to share the way of living I was taught by my parents and my grandparents,” Correa says. “It wasn’t something we learned in school, it was always done by example. How to share, how to care, how to love, how to be of service to others is a big part of our community.”
When Ann came to the garden and asked Correa to speak to her retreat groups, it gave Correa an opportunity to think about what aloha meant to her, but it also answered her the desire to teach others about its meaning, in her own community and around the world. They formed a bond, a purpose, and a close friendship.
“We had a very grand vision of sharing Aloha with the world and then realized you start in your own backyard. You start with the keiki, the children,” Hettinger says.
They decided to write a children’s book together. Hettinger interviewed Correa about the meaning of Aloha and wrote the story. Lahela shared the 14 life lessons of Aloha that she was raised with and taught by her parents and previous generations. Ann then created, designed and expressed it in a way kids could understand, along with fun activities, colorful illustrations, use of Hawaiian words, history, coloring and more. The end result was “Aloha: What it means to my ʻOhana.” The duo founded Aloha Publishing Hawaiʻi to print the book in 2016. In 2017 they revised the original and came out with two more editions: an adult version, “Discovering Aloha” and “Aloha: What it means to my ʻOhana and Yours” for upper elementary students. For the school year beginning 2018, they created a book for lower elementary students;“Aloha what it Means to My ʻOhana” and also created a full curriculum geared for Kindergarten through 6th grade to accompany the books.
The book was just the beginning. The next step was outreach, and getting the book into local schools. So far, six Kauaʻi schools have integrated the books into their curriculum, along with Holualoa Elementary School on the Big Island. The Aloha Movement Kauaʻi is currently raising funds for five other schools, including Kua O Ka La Charter School on the Big Island that burned down from volcano lava and many Kauaʻi westside schools that are lacking funds for supplies.
For Correa, spreading the love of Aloha is something that’s necessary both at home and around the world, especially at a time when people are so divided. “Aloha is not just a word, it has a deeper meaning. Like all things in life if it is not passed down and taught, it will be forgotten. It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, blue or green, I believe we all have Aloha.”
The most exciting part, the duo says, is seeing the book’s lessons in action. When a flood ravaged Kauaʻi last April, students from Holualoa Elementary School who were studying the “Aloha is Hope” lesson from the book wanted to do something to help the students of Hanalei. They decided to make them “aloha magnets” to give them hope that things would get better. The Hanalei students were so moved they wanted to show reciprocity and do the same thing for the kids whose school was destroyed by the lava on the Big Island. “They took what they learned and applied it, and that is just so awesome,” Hettinger says. “It’s now coming full circle to see these students applying things they learned in real life and spreading Aloha. It’s not just a book.”
The Aloha Movement Kauaʻi + The Timbers Hokuala Kauai
Since 1999 Timbers Resorts has committed to being authentic, unique and respectful of the destination and to create legacy traditions and advocacy offerings and programs rooted in authenticity that will have value to owners and the Kauaʻi community. At Timbers Kauai, we endeavor to weave traditions rooted in authenticity into daily life. The spirit of Thanksgiving, like the spirit of Aloha, is rooted in thankfulness, gratitude and generosity. To celebrate this year, we featured the Aloha Movement Kauaʻi at our Thanksgiving Scramble Golf Tournament & Taste of Timbers. The organization donated a beautiful longboard by North Shore shaper, Mark Angell and glassed by Dave Implom to raise funds and promote awareness for Aloha Movement. Drew Vento of Kalaheo is now the proud owner of this very special board.
The Aloha Movement thrives on community and global support. If you feel that little warmth of Aloha in your heart, share it by donating to this incredible organization. The seeds of love we plant today will nourish our communities for years to come.