A Gift from the Queen

A small group of volunteers helps to raise money and donations for Hawaii’s orphaned children.

For many of Hawaii’s children, little things can change their world—if only for a moment. Since 1998, grassroots organization Ka Makana O Liliuokalani has provided gifts to Native Hawaiian children who recently lost one or both parents. The help ranges from prom dresses to school supplies and clothing to trips to the Big Island’s Merrie Monarch Hula Festival.

“We’re here to perpetuate the queen’s wish that we take care of Native Hawaiian children,” says chairperson Erla Pauole. Over the years, Ka Makana has remained small on purpose, Pauole says, to minimize the red tape involved in approving the one-time gift requests. “We keep it simple. [Applicants] don’t have to prove income or status,” she says, noting that loss of a parent affects children of all income levels. Once the organization receives the parent’s death certificate, members can move quickly to provide gifts.

photo by Rae Huo

Lei Lindo (left) and Erla Pauole are committed to Hawaii’s children and the mission of Queen Liliuokalani. 

Ka Makana initially began as an offshoot of the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center (QLCC)—a trust that caters to a similar population of children. Although the nonprofit is now completely self-sufficient, doing its own grant writing and fundraising, the two organizations work closely together. When the nine-member board of Ka Makana—made up mostly of retired kupuna—comes across a child in need of counseling, a referral is made to QLCC. When a request comes into QLCC for a specific item, the applicant is referred to Ka Makana. “The purpose was never to replicate QLCC,” says QLCC social worker Jay Yukumoto. “Ka Makana services children who may never walk through our doors,” he adds. “Because of the good work Ka Makana does in the community, people who benefited from their services tell others in similar situations.”

Although most requests involve basic necessities such as clothing and school supplies, council members have approved a variety of gifts, including driving lessons, class rings, enrollment in Mainland sports clinics and after-school lessons here in the Islands. With an organization like Ka Makana, the aid given to a grieving family can be quite diverse, says founding member Lei Lindo.

“We handle a lot of tragic cases,” she says. “To be able to get a child a little something, just a distraction, can make them happier during this time of sorrow.”

Lindo, an orphan herself, sees the organization as a way to give back to the community. “The QLCC helped me as a child. They gave me my senior prom dress.” She also recalls the Honolulu Fire Department putting her through school and paying doctor bills after her firefighter father’s death. “It’s time to give back,” she says.

In addition to providing gifts to the children, Ka Makana also prepares gift baskets for families immediately after a death. The basket contains toys and CDs for the children, grocery gift certificates and donated coupons from family friendly spots like McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut.

Although Ka Makana members don’t foresee the organization growing in size or expanding its services, they are trying to reach more people.

Currently, the organization helps about two children per month and extends its services during the back-to-school months to help about four children at a time.

“The loss of a parent is incredibly traumatic,” says Yukumoto. “Although a gift cannot make up for that loss, knowing there’s someone who cares means a lot to these children.”

UPDATE: Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation

Last September we covered Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit that exists to support families with children diagnosed with cancer. The organization has since come a long way, in terms of the financial assistance it’s able to provide. Due, in large part, to a fundraiser held earlier this year, HCCF has increased its financial aid from $3,000 to $4,000 per family during the first year after diagnosis. President Diane Ono hopes to raise more funds and awareness about childhood cancer at this month’s “Jungle Adventure” benefit at the Honolulu Zoo. For more information, contact HCCF at 528-5161 or hccf@lava.net.