MOLOKA‘I – For hunter, fisherman and carpenter Yama Kaholo‘a‘a, his list of feats since moving to Moloka‘i more than 30 years ago is as long it is varied, including teaching teens from broken homes survival skills in the island’s rugged rainforests, building his four-bedroom house by himself, and raising seven children.
But gaining legal custody of three granddaughters remains the triumph that this 68-year-old resident of the Ho‘olehua Homestead is genuinely most excited about.
With an emergency $7,500 loan from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Kaholo‘a‘a, who has 26 grandchildren, was able to make the home improvements that Child Welfare Services made a condition for giving him custody of three granddaughters and keeping them out of Hawaii’s foster care system.
“My grandchildren mean everything to me,” Kaholo‘a‘a said during a conversation in his garage before a June 18 community meeting on Moloka‘i hosted by OHA trustees. “Without that OHA loan, I don’t get the chance I have today, which is to create a more stable life for three of my granddaughters.”
Kaholo‘a‘a is among more than 400 Native-Hawaiian consumers who have borrowed an estimated $2 million from OHA’s often-overlooked emergency loan program since it was created in 2005.
Called the “Consumer Micro-Loan Program, it was created for Native Hawaiians, who are experiencing temporary financial hardship due to unforeseen circumstances.
The program makes up to $7,500 in low-interest loans available to Native-Hawaiian consumers to pay for emergencies ranging from auto and home repairs to funeral and legal expenses.
Kaholo‘a‘a used the loan mainly to fix a roof that leaked and install windows that keep mosquitoes away. More importantly, the home repairs allowed him to comply fully with federal child-welfare standards designed to protect kids like his granddaughters – 14-year-old Makaila, 13-year-old Shandalyn, and 15-months-old Caroline — from neglect and abuse.
For Makaila, whose extra-curricular pursuits include volleyball and softball, the home repairs bring with them the promise of stability in her life, which is enriched by a grandmother, Caroline, who she describes as “caring and funny” and a grandfather that she said “never says no” and takes her every where, including diving for prawns and other seafood in his 33-foot boat.
“Without my grandparents, I would feel sad and lost,” Makaila said. “I don’t think I can handle not being with them.”
For more information about OHA’s Consumer Micro-Loan Program, visit www.oha.org/cmlp