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23 Volunteer Ideas in Hawai‘i

Here’s our guide to giving back, from removing invasive species to decorating theater sets.


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This story originally appeared online Dec. 2, 2014. 

Little brother Matt plays a game with his big brother.
Photo: Mark Lee


After the ball drops at midnight  on New Year’s Eve, many of us vow to eat healthier, exercise more, make time to be better people. By February we’ve slipped back into old habits, leaving those resolutions behind.

We can do better this year. While it’s still the season of giving, let’s start thinking about 2015 and how we can contribute our talents to the community. Every nonprofit appreciates donations, but volunteering time is priceless. From a one-time beach cleanup to a year of mentoring a child, we’ve compiled a range of opportunities that we hope will encourage you to reach out and help others. We’ve also rated each opportunity based on how much of a commitment it takes, so you can choose to either dip in your toes or make a big splash. Often, it’s the ripple effect that makes a world of difference. Here are some ideas to get started.



* Minimal Commitment

* * Low Commitment

* * * Medium Commitment

* * * * High Commitment

* * * * * Maximum Commitment


SEE ALSO: Field Notes: Meet the Volunteers Who Remove Invasive Algae From Maunalua Bay


The Outdoors

From mauka to makai, Hawai‘i’s rich environment appeals to volunteers of all ages and capabilities. From living and working on a farm to teaching people to surf, here are ways you can get outside and mālama ‘āina. Most organizations require that you be at least 18 years old and physically capable of some manual labor.


The Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club

Photo: Courtesy The Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club

Maintain Hawai‘i’s hiking trails with HTMC while improving conditions for all hikers. Tie ribbons, chop down branches, reduce hazards and promote native plant growth. Volunteers are asked to be club members—you must go on three hikes within a year and pay dues to join, but you can start with just one or two hikes if you want to get right to trail maintenance, and they will be counted toward your membership quota. There is no minimum number of trails you have to help with, and there are volunteer opportunities almost weekly. htmclub.org

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WWOOF Hawai‘i

WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. If you’re serious about gaining farming experience, helping a worthy cause or trying something new, sign up as a WWOOFer on wwoofhawaii.org for $25. You can apply to work on specific farms. In return, hosts provide accommodations and meals. You’re expected to live and work on the farm anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, though many farms also accept volunteers by the day. This can be an intense but rewarding experience. wwoofhawaii.org

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Hawai‘i State Parks

A range of groups and organizations have official curator agreements to maintain state parks, and most are looking for more volunteers. Many state parks, such as Ulupō Heiau State Historical Park, are significant Hawaiian landmarks, so, in preserving the ‘āina, you’re also perpetuating the culture. hawaiistateparks.org/partners




Photo: Courtesy AccesSurf

This Hawai‘i nonprofit helps people with disabilities swim or surf in a safe environment. Skilled watermen and -women  can get hands-on with water safety and assisted surfing. Volunteers of all capabilities are welcome at AccesSurf’s Day at the Beach programs, where you can help in or out of the water. Orientation is at 8 a.m. at White Plains Beach Park in Kalaeloa the first Saturday of each month. accessurf.org



Waikīkī Aquarium

Help the UH botany department remove invasive algae from the Waikīkī coastline and reef systems to promote native species’ growth. Divers remove the alien species from the sea floor, and then the algae are transported to the Honolulu Zoo, where they’re used as fertilizer. Volunteers can help by snorkeling above the divers, transporting sacks of algae back to shore, sorting native limu, removing algae from shallower areas and more. Bring a towel, sunblock, hat, water, gloves, goggles, reef shoes, snorkels and fins, depending on how you’d like to help. Check the calendar at waikikiaquarium.org/visit/calendar for the next cleanup, or contact the volunteer office at 440-9020 or volunteer@waquarium.org. waikikiaquarium.org



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Honolulu Magazine August 2020