Moms scratch by to see kids break free


POSTED: Sunday, November 23, 2008
This story has been corrected. See below.

Single mothers Chanel Kekiwi and Lisamarie French are working hard to get their kids a good education.

“;I want my kids to be better than me, to go to college, to have a better life, better jobs - to be somebody,”; said Kekiwi, a 29-year-old Waianae resident.

French, who lives in Waipahu, is ecstatic that her eldest son this year was the first in her family to go to college.

The Community Clearinghouse's Adopt-A-Family program wants to lend a hand to these moms, who stand little chance of fulfilling their kids' Christmas wishes when they can barely afford the basics. The Star-Bulletin's annual Good Neighbor Fund is assisting the nonprofit agency in raising funds to give needy families a bit of cheer.

With a second-grade reading ability, Kekiwi can find only dead-end, low-paying work to support her six children. Kekiwi is working with a tutor toward getting a high school diploma equivalency, and in turn tries to help her children with their homework.

She works at two part-time jobs, one as a bus aide for special education children in Waipahu, and at KFC restaurant in Nanakuli at night. The gas to and from work twice a day eats up her paycheck, her second-largest expense after rent.

By mid-month it gets harder to stretch her dollars to feed her children, ages 3 to 12: “;Boys eat a lot. I don't say nothing, just feed them. They come home hungry and I'm not going to say no. I'm trying my best to make things work out.

“;If I had the education I wanted, maybe I could have a better job. I would want to be with disabled kids, as a certified nurse's aide. That's why I took the (bus aide) transportation job. I just feel bad for them because it's not their fault. I was special ed all my life. I never got help. They just passed me on to the next grade to the next grade,”; she said.

Kekiwi said her four eldest boys share one makeshift twin bed, and they all sit on the floor. They need couches, dressers, children's clothes and a dining table.

French's children could use new clothes and educational toys.

French, the sole provider of four children, recently had her hours reduced as a customer service agent for 15 years with United Airlines. Her wages, along with government assistance, have to cover a rent increase, overdue car and utility bills, and money for her son to attend junior college.

Her son is the first to attain this level of education in her and her ex-husband's families. His love of basketball kept him going to school because he wants to earn an athletic scholarship in a couple of years.

“;It's huge. I'm just so ecstatic for him. After hating to go to school and struggling all his life - he has a hard time focusing - it's so exciting. I tell him I'm so proud of him. He really has the drive and passion.”;






        » Dustin, 12, is the nephew of Chanel Kekiwi. A photo caption on Page A15 Sunday misidentified him as Chanel Kekiwi's son.