Preserving Paradise

Want to pitch in to help the Islands, but short on time? A new book is a welcome resource.

Photo: Courtesy of Maui Restoration Group

You’ve wanted to volunteer for an environmental organization for some time now—really, you have. But you just don’t have the time to do it. It’s OK, we get it, you’re busy. A new book, Preserving Paradise, can solve this dilemma. The 164-page color glossy, written by Maui resident Kirsten Whatley, features more than 65 environmental organizations in the Islands that need your help—and most would welcome just a few hours of your time. (And no, they won’t give you a guilt trip if that’s all you can spare.)

Photo: Courtesy of Kirsten Whatley

The listings are sorted by island, and note the details you care about most, such as what activities you might participate in, how difficult the tasks may be on a one to five scale, the time of year the opportunity is available and who can participate. Quotes by previous volunteers are adjacent to each listing, a smart addition since their comments can provide important insight into the experience.

If you have a particular interest, say, marine mammals or native plants, that’s not a problem either. Just flip to the back of the book, where an index separates each organization by the type of work that it does.

Some of the experiences will take you to places you never knew existed. For example, the Maui Restoration Group has an agreement with Ulupalakua Ranch, which in past projects has allowed volunteers to go 4,000 feet up leeward Haleakala to an area that’s being restored to a native ecosystem.

There are unexpected opportunities, too. The Surfrider Foundation Oahu offers Spirit Sessions, a chance for women to become surf mentors to at-risk girls. (That requires a 10-week minimum commitment, with sessions held Saturday mornings for four hours.) With Nani O Waianae, the Oahu affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, activities include cleaning up graffiti or repainting park tables.

Photo: Courtesy Honokohau Valley Project

Whatley says that, while writing the book, she was most inspired by the individuals she met along the way. “There’s this grassroots movement by a lot of small organizations who are working fiercely to protect their little corner or patch of the island,” she explains. “It’s a quiet revolution throughout the Islands by some remarkable people who are extremely passionate and selfless.”

So go ahead, make new friends, see places you wouldn’t see otherwise, and feel good about it when the day is done.