KAILUA — A unique charter school whose curriculum will be anchored in Native Hawaiian ocean voyaging, or “wayfinding,” is one of several Windward nonprofit groups to receive grants totaling $365,800 approved last week by the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation board of directors.

The grants will help launch an innovative Windward charter school co-founded by one of Hawaii’s great traditional ocean voyagers, bring children of Hawaii’s prison inmates together for a faith-based summer camp, assure that underserved children receive school breakfast, and help preserve and protect a Lanikai coral reef ecosystem.

The Hawaiian Educational Council (HEC) was awarded $125,000 to continue the establishment of the Malama Honua Learning Center in Waimanalo, a charter school co-founded by Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS), and Robert Witt, HEC chairman and CEO, and Hawaii Association of Independent Schools executive director.

The school, which will predominantly serve the Windward Native Hawaiian community, will prepare children and educators to be leaders in society’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.

“The PVS Worldwide Voyage and Malama Honua Learning Center share the same vision and mission:  Malama Honua,” Witt said. “As Hokule‘a circumnavigates Island Earth, our school, which is its own parallel voyage in education, will wayfind new and different learning outcomes. Endowing students with the capacities inherent in the ‘mind of the navigator’ is the educational destination of our voyage; integrating rigorous 21st-century curricula with the enduring values and profound wisdom of the Hawaiian culture sets the course for us to get there.”

For Thompson, the importance of founding the school in Waimanalo was basic.

“Malama Honua, first and foremost, has to be in a community where Hawaiian children are,” he said. “Waimanalo has special significance because it’s where Mau Pialug created his schools. Waimanalo is a community that’s powerful … a community we want to be part of, to engage in, and learn from.”

The Malama Honua Learning Center will open in August 2014 and will be the first charter school to serve families in Waimanalo.

Terry George, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, said the Foundation grants are an “investment in the well-being of Windward Oahu and the education and economic future of Native Hawaiians.”

Other grants approved by the Foundation’s board of directors included:

  • $55,800 to the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice to provide breakfasts for elementary students from low-income families. Although there are more than 70,000 students in Hawaii who are eligible for federally subsidized meals, less than half participate in the school breakfast program. Hawaii Appleseed plans to partner with four Windward Oahu elementary schools to provide “Breakfast After the Bell,” so all children can start the school day well fed and alert. It is hoped the program will expand to other schools and ultimately be adopted statewide.
  • $50,000 to the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (Hawaii District) to cover for Windward Oahu participants the cost of a four-day summer camp on the North Shore for children of island prison inmates. “Camp Agape” was founded in 2006 and is run by former prison inmate Pastor Roy Yamamoto. It brings together 150 children of inmates – both fathers and mothers – each Labor Day. Yamamoto says the children take part in traditional summer camp activities such as archery, crafts and surfing, but also are taught love, trust, forgiveness, prayer and hope “to help these children and their parents transform their lives through God’s love.” The grant will be spread over three years.
  • $60,000 to the Lanikai Beach and Park Foundation, Inc. to conduct a biological, human use and cultural assessment of the coral reef ecosystems of Lanikai. The assessment will support the community’s overall goal to improve the health and management of Lanikai’s reefs.

In addition to the grants that specifically targeted issues important to Windward residents, the Foundation also approved a $75,000 grant to help the Mission Houses Museum implement its new strategic plan over the next three years, focusing on the collaboration that existed between Hawaii ali‘i and Protestant missionaries.

For more information about the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, visit www.castlefoundation.org.

The Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, the largest private foundation headquartered in Hawaii, is committed to closing the achievement and preparation gaps in public education so that all Hawaii’s children have access to high-quality pre-K-12 education that prepares them for success in college, career and citizenship. Its grants also focus on restoring nearshore marine ecosystems and strengthening Windward Oahu communities.

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