by Kathy Martin
In January 2013, I was hired as a resident services associate for Mutual Housing Association of Hawaiʻi at Pālolo Homes. Even before my employment, however, I initially got involved with the community in Spring 2011 doing a service-learning project along with my PACS 603 classmates and our professor, Lola Quan Bautista. Over the course of several months, we gathered information about education and occupation from 87 households made up on Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans, and more recent Pacific Islander migrants from Chuuk, Pohnpei, and the Marshall Islands.
Then, in Fall 2012, I was invited by Dr Ulla Hassager (UHM) and Veronica Ogata (KCC), as well as the resident manager of Palolo Homes, Ms Dahlia Asuega, to help develop the agenda for what became my favorite activity, the Pālolo Ohana Program. Known in the neighborhood as the “POP Session,” this is a time when the community comes together and “talks story” about issues facing the community, feelings of discrimination and stereotypes as well as and desired activities. Throughout Fall 2012, students from UHM and KCC came to the learning center and showcased films about the Pacific, which were well attended. In Spring 2013, we took on new activities like college preparedness, financial planning, and even parenting classes. We also scheduled fun stuff like Bingo nights with prizes!
This year Pālolo Homes was selected to be surveyed to represent Mutual Housing Association of Hawai‘i in partnership with Neighbor Works America, a national org-anization that provides financial and resource support to Mutual Housing. I’m out in the field again, gathering inform-ation from residents about how to improve the community and how families feel about living in this community. I am also mentoring a BYU intern from Kiribati, Marewea Auatabu, as part of a service-learning activity administered by Lola Quan Bautista.
The most exciting part of my work with the Pālolo community is that I get to speak Chuukese and work with Chuukese families, though I especially enjoy bonding with other Pacific Islanders and learning about their cultures as well. I’ve noticed that we eat similar traditional foods and that other Pacific Islanders also have large family gatherings and show respect for elders.
I’d say one of my biggest challenges is figuring out how to get residents to commit to community projects. It’s hard because there are language barriers and cultural differences. Even when I work with Chuukese residents, sometimes it is hard speaking with older people and even men.
Editor’s note: Kathy Martin is featured in Breadfruit & Open Spaces. She was born and raised in Chuuk, moved to Guam to attend University of Guam, and came to Hawaiʻi for graduate studies. In 2011, she earned a Masters in Social Work from UHM. Kathy’s contribution was invited to continue highlighting the service-learning programs that KCC and UHM students are involved with and to add the perspective of a program developer and community member (see Pacific News from Mānoa 13–1).