By Lauren Meyer – Assistant Program Supervisor
This past Friday, a few of our Malama students took a break from camp to set out into the community of Na’alehu with a purpose. With a trunk full of tools, and smiles on our faces, we took off down the road to a neighbor’s house. In this house lives two, once very active members of our small community here in Ka’u. The wife has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the husband, who has been giving his fullest self to take care of her, was recently diagnosed with cancer as well. The students weren’t able to shake the hands of these two, as they were out for the day, but our task was to give them something to smile about when they returned.
With shovels in hand, we stepped into their garden. We could see that they had put forth a lot of effort into beautifying their backyard, which was backed up to a golf course a few miles down the road from our base camp. We weren’t given much instruction besides “he really likes his pineapples.” We took a walk around, discussing what we could do to help. There were many overgrown areas which needed a lot of TLC to survive. We looked closer at the pineapples, and realized that they had produced many slips, which can be planted to make new pineapples.
We spent about an hour simply weeding the whole garden, then put up rock walls made of the Hawaiian volcanic lava rocks to stop the weeds from spreading as easily. A dragon fruit vine was starting to take over some of his smaller plants, so we transplanted that to a nearby wall to crawl on instead. Then we started our pineapple project.
Pineapples are great plants for the fact that they don’t need much attention – they can grow almost entirely on their own without the need for constant attention from the caretaker. This makes them a perfect plant for this couple, who have become quite preoccupied but still appreciate the beauty and reward from the garden. We harvested the slips and planted them in the ground, making a larger pineapple patch lining up against their beautiful plumeria trees that separates their yard from the golf course. We talked about how excited he was going to be when he came home to see this.
We worked ourselves into a hunger and decided to stop and eat the lunch that we had packed. Three malamas and two staff sat in a circle and expressed how grateful we were for our health, and the fact that our loved ones don’t have to go through this right now. We thought about the couple and the hardships they must be feeling right now. “I wonder if they have any kids” one of the students asked. “It feels great to get out and be a part of the community” another vocalized.
After lunch, we continued to work on the pineapple patch as well as some general maintenance and weeding of the area. It was soon time to head back into the vehicle and begin the quick drive back to camp. The ride back was quiet, it seems our hard work really wore us out. The students got back into camp with an hour to spare before it was time to start cooking dinner, and were quick to tell the other students in their ohana about their productive day.