At Hawaiian Airlines, we view giving back as a shared kuleana (responsibility). In celebration of National Volunteer Week and Earth Day, over 70 Team Kōkua volunteers spent the last several days donating over 270 hours of labor to a selection of beloved environmental, cultural and human services organizations. Maximizing the opportunity, we teamed up with the nonprofit Kanu Hawaii, which empowers people to build more environmentally sustainable, compassionate and resilient communities rooted in personal commitments to change. 

Hawaiian Airlines was a proud supporter of Kanu Hawaii’s fourth annual Volunteer Week Hawaiʻi, a local take on National Volunteer Week created to foster volunteerism in the continued prosperity of communities across the state.

Join us as we recap last week’s events and celebrate our employees who donated their time to kōkua (help) others.

Monday: Removing Invasives with Mālama Maunalua

Along Oʻahu’s southeastern shoreline is the picturesque Maunalua Bay, where locals cast their fishing lines, spend time with family and paddle canoes and boards through its shallow waters. Once a marshy ecosystem home to native sea life and waterbirds, the bay’s health has been harmed by development over the past century.

Since 2005, Mālama Maunalua has focused on seabird habitat restoration, data collection, education and outreach in the area. Among the nonprofit’s longstanding effort is removing invasive alien algae (IAA) to restore once-thriving fields of native seagrass and algae.



“These invasive, non-native marine algae species flourish in an environment created by sediment and runoff from the land,” according to the organization’s website. “As IAA spreads, it smothers coral reefs and native algal communities and kills extensive areas of native habitat…Restoring Maunalua Bay takes a community that understands the Bay is in trouble, believes it is worth saving and has hope that the decline can be reversed. Our work is driven by these community members who help improve the quality of Maunalua Bay.”

Twenty-one volunteers waded into the waters at Paikō Beach in Maunalua Bay and pulled detrimental IAA, including gorilla ogo, leather mudweed, and prickly seaweed, from the seafloor.



“The work they [Mālama Maunalua] do is very important, not only for the community but also in keeping Oʻahu’s shores healthy. Their efforts go beyond clearing the shoreline and extend into the community via education and land management,” said Irina De La Torre, senior specialist of community relations at Hawaiian Airlines. “With Earth Day just a few days after, it was the perfect opportunity to remind ourselves that taking caring for a special place like Hawaiʻi is a never-ending labor of love.”

Friday: Loʻi cleanup at Ulupō Heiau

Ulupō Heiau rests on the eastern edge of Windward Oʻahu’s Kawainui Marsh and is the largest heiau (ceremonial place) on Oʻahu. Believed to be over a thousand years old, Ulupō Heiau is cared for by the loving hands of Kauluakalana, a local nonprofit working to revive cultural identity, steward the community, restore connections to ‘āina (land) and renew kuleana (responsibility) in the historic ahupuaʻa (traditional subdivision) of Kailua, Oʻahu. 



The organization, established in 2019 by a group of Kailua residents, offers immersive, culture-based programs centered around the nonprofit’s vision “to restore and grow healthy relationships between people and place through the aloha ʻāina practices of retelling our Kailua-specific stories, replanting and eating our ancestral foods, and caring for the sacred sites, lands, and waters of our beloved ahupuaʻa of Kailua.”

Team Kōkua volunteers came together at Ulupō Heiau to learn from its caretakers and remove ʻaeʻae, a native weed, and invasive apple snails from a loʻi kalo (taro patch).



“My ʻohana, Kūaliʻi, has ties to Kailua and Kawainui in particular,” shared ʻIwalani Kualiʻi Kahoʻohanohano, senior specialist of internal communications at Hawaiian Airlines. “This was my first time visiting the area and Kauluakalana provided a space for us to be present - especially with our kupuna [elders], including the ʻāina [land]. Giving back to the ʻāina at and around Ulupō Heiau by getting waist-deep in the loʻi and huli ana i ka lima i lalo (turning our hands down in the work) made me feel more connected to Kawainui than ever. Hearing the moʻolelo (stories) of the significance of this place and working alongside those who keep these stories alive made me proud to have had the chance to contribute with my ʻohana at Hawaiian Airlines.”

[Editor’s note: Have you heard about our Hawaiian Airlines Earth Day logo collection? All proceeds from the collection will be donated to Kauluakalana.]

Friday: Distributing Donations with Hawaii Foodbank

The Hawaii Foodbank has spent nearly four decades ensuring that no one in Hawaiʻi goes hungry, and its role has become even more critical as the COVID-19 economic fallout impacts communities statewide. Since the onset of the pandemic, the Hawaii Foodbank distributed 28 million pounds of food to local families.



In response to the nonprofit’s growing demand for services and, thus, the need for volunteers, Team Kōkua has spent each Friday for over a year helping Hawaii Foodbank staff distribute food boxes to community members in Central Oʻahu. Last week, 16 volunteers once again answered the call and offered their kōkua to those in need.

Saturday: Cleaning Beaches with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi

Sustainable Coastlines Hawai’i (SCH) works to engage communities to care for Hawaiʻi’s coastlines through fun, educational beach cleanups where participants also learn about the impact everyday purchases have on the environment.



“In Hawai’i, we see the growing impact of consumerism as plastics wash up on our shores, coming from both our own home and afar, and impact our islands' marine life,” Rafael Bergstrom, executive director of SCH, recently said in a Manaʻo blog post. “Education on how to stop this pollution at the source is what leads to change; this is where you can make an impact.”

Last weekend, SCH safely gathered hundreds of volunteers, including Hawaiian Airlines employees, along the shores of Sherwoods Beach in Waimānalo, Oʻahu, a hotspot for micro-plastics, fishing nets, oyster spacers and more. Nearly 30 of our Team Kōkua members dawned their gloves, purple shirts and reef-safe sunscreen to sift bits of plastic out of the beach’s fine sand.



“Volunteering with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi last weekend allowed me to demonstrate a selfless pride in restoring and protecting my island home’s beaches,” said Michelle Nguyen, senior supply chain analyst at Hawaiian Airlines. “Seeing people from all around the island come together to clean Sherwoods Beach embodied the meaning of kuleana and was an enriching experience.”