Aikahi first-graders get
firsthand look at homeless

The trip comes after the "Adopt-a-Family"
program of Helping Hands Hawaii's

Aikahi Elementary School teacher Barbara Romig took her first-grade class to Chinatown this month to find out what it is like to be homeless. They also stopped to deliver a box of cookies to the River of Life mission.

The Star-Bulletin's Good Neighbor Fund contributed $16, 951 to Helping Hands Hawaii

"My first-graders were shocked to see" the poor people in the neighborhood, Romig said. "We talked about the homeless and how people get that way. Some have mental illness or unfortunate circumstances, like maybe they are out of a job. Maybe they never had skills or training, and I emphasized the importance of education."

The trip came after Helping Hands Hawaii's annual "Adopt-a-Family" program, through which each of Aikahi's 28 classrooms donated gifts at Christmas. None of the classes in the Kailua school received any feedback about how their specific family enjoyed the presents, but it did not seem to matter to her students, Romig said.

Capsun Poe, program manager of "Adopt-a-Family," which is run out of the Community Clearinghouse on Nimitz Highway, sent letters of thanks to the school and everyone in the community who adopted 100 families this year.

"Each of those families is grateful to everyone who helped to make this holiday a bright and happy one," he said.

Helping Hands also co-sponsored the Star-Bulletin's Good Neighbor Fund, which contributed $16,951 from 194 donors as of mid-February, Poe said. Much of the money is being used for the emergency assistance fund, which pays for rent, utility bills or bus passes under special circumstances, he added. He cited a letter from a woman who received some money:

"Your gift made a tremendous difference. It is making sure that I will be sheltered under a roof, and keeping away the horror of homelessness. This makes me feel safe and secure during this holiday season," the letter said.

"The kids still feel good about it. ... It didn't dampen their enthusiasm for the project. Their goodness comes from the heart, and they did it because it's the right thing. They're taught to make a difference in people's lives," Romig said.

"We all have so much. I let the kids know we are so fortunate, and never to take anything for granted," she said.


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