Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Above, Bryan Vierra, Liane Vierra and McKenna Vierra of Makakilo, all in the background, met their "adopted" family, Agatha Debrum and her son Bardoka, foreground, at a party at Waipahu Elementary last night for Aloha Kalikimaka, a program for needy families.

Families share
spirit of giving

Families aided through the Aloha
Kalikimaka program met
their benefactors last night

By Rosemarie Bernardo

Families suffering economically entertained other families who came to their aid this holiday season with a kalua pig dinner, Christmas carols and dance.

"Aloha goes two ways. We thought it was important for the families to give back," said Fay Uyeda, executive director of Communities in Schools Hawaii, a YMCA project.

About 100 people attended the event last night in the cafeteria at Waipahu Elementary School.

Twelve needy families received assistance from 12 other families through Aloha Kalikimaka, a project created under the leadership of Uyeda.

Uyeda's main concern was connecting families and to helping families in need, targeting the Marshallese population.

Bottom right, from left, Keari Aga, Ashley Barros, Melissa Morales, Kanela Dudoit and Kathy Aga danced as part of the entertainment.

"We're all interdependent," Uyeda said.

She said in a letter distributed last night: "As challenging as times are, it is time of great opportunity to place into perspective the things that are most important for us and succeeding generations to learn."

A majority of the families who received assistance from other families live in the "Pupu" area of Waipahu -- a low-income housing area.

"Some of our Marshallese families have no homeland to return to because of the devastation of nuclear testing," Uyeda said.

"They are plagued with extraordinary health challenges while trying to acculturate to new surroundings."

Items such as clothing, soap and rice cookers were on their Christmas list.

"It's a reality check for all of us," said Mary Matayoshi, director of Volunteer Services for the Office of the Governor. "These are the people that are most in need because there's no one to turn to."

The families met each other for the first time last night.

Bottom left, women from the Marshall Islands sang thanks for their hosts.

Makakilo resident Bryan Vierra decided to participate in the project to teach his two children "the true meaning of aloha and supporting other families," he said.

Vierra and his wife, Liane, are involved in Project Kakoo, a mentoring program at Maukalani Elementary School in Makakilo that reaches out to families in the community.

The Vierra family bought laundry detergent, soap, clothing and a blanket for Agatha Debrum and her 6-month-old son, Bardoka.

Debrum said her only wish was for Bardoka and her 4-year-old daughter Ramona to have some gifts for Christmas.

"We're very happy," Debrum said.

Aulii Teson of Makakilo, left, seemed amazed at the appetite of Bernadette Sam, 4, at a party at Waipahu Elementary School last night for Aloha Kalikimaka.

Those families who helped other families said they gave their children a priceless gift: the spirit of aloha.

Makakilo resident Dale Fryxell said he wanted to teach his children the true meaning of Christmas.

Fryxell's 11-year-old daughter, Anna, said, "There are other people in the world besides you and other people that need your help."

Organizers of last night's event said the food was donated and the Waipahu cafeteria workers donated their time to prepare and serve it.

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