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From the Heart

An innovative adoption process gathers local photographers and community members with one goal: to find homes for all of Hawai’i’s children.


The going rate for a single picture is 1,000 words. David Louis wants to show the Islands that a photo can be worth even more–it can translate into a home and family. With the support of the Department of Human Services (DHS), Louis opened Heart Gallery Hawai'i (HG Hawai'i), modeled after several galleries across the nation. The nonprofit organization intends to find permanent homes for Hawai'i's foster children–especially those considered difficult to place because of physical or mental disabilities or age.

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona has supported efforts of the Heart Gallery, an ongoing project to find children permanent, adoptive homes. photo: courtesy of the Heart Gallery

The concept is simple: Professional photographers volunteer their time and talent to take portraits of foster children, which are then displayed throughout the state to raise awareness–and, with any luck, adoption rates. These images are far more captivating than the standard, white-background Polaroid in a foster child's folder. "These kids have such a depth to them, from whatever they've experienced and lived through," says Heidi Anderson, owner of Keiki Photography and a HG Hawai'i volunteer. "It's a little bit more scary for people [to adopt a foster child]," she says. "But that's a reason to show these beautiful images of these kids."

As it strays from the traditional adoption route, the process was met with some apprehension in the Islands. For example, just displaying the photos publicly was a major departure from the privacy concerns that surround foster children. But Louis has won over major supporters, including Lillian Kohler of DHS and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, and the numbers alone tell the story. More than 5,000 adoptions are attributed to the photo efforts of 60 Heart Galleries across 45 states, since 2001.

At least 30 children will have their photos displayed at HG Hawai'i's first opening at Honolulu Hale from March 31 through April 16, with a one-day event at Bishop Museum on April 9. From there, the photo exhibit will travel around the Islands and be displayed in cafés, malls, art galleries and museums.

Are you a photographer, photo processor, gallery owner, framer or simply want to make a donation? Contact the Heart Gallery Hawai'i: #1077 Kina'u St. #2, 523-1983 or e-mail heartgalleryhawaii@verizon.net.

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Honolulu Magazine December 2019
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