June 14, 2022

Volunteers restore cultural sites statewide

Hundreds of Kaiser Permanente physicians and staff participate in annual day of service after 2-year hiatus.

Waipā Foundation lo‘i.

Hundreds of Kaiser Permanente physicians, staff, and family members volunteered on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island, and Kauai on June 10, taking part in a companywide tradition known as the Kaiser Permanente Annual Day of Service — Hosted by the Hawaii Permanente Medical Group. 

“Many nonprofits experienced a decrease in the number of people volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic and need volunteers now, more than ever,” said Greg Christian, Hawaii Market president, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals. “We’re excited to fill that need and support projects with important environmental, educational, and cultural significance to the communities we serve.”

Participants were able to volunteer at multiple sites on Oahu with a focus on environmental restoration of sites with cultural significance. In West Oahu, volunteers removed invasive species and planted native plants at Kalaeloa Heritage Park. In Waianae, volunteers gathered at the Cultural Learning Center at Ka’ala Farm at the base of Mauna Kaala to help rebuild embankments for loi patches and remove overgrown grass, weeds, and brush from the loi. On the Windward side, the organization partnered with Papahana Kuaola, Kāko‘o ‘Ōiwi and Paepae o He‘eia, 3 nonprofits located within Heeia ahupuaa in Kaneohe, to complete restoration work in mountain, wetland, and ocean environments. Volunteers assisted with rebuilding loi, planting native species and fruit trees, removing invasive species, and helping with rock wall maintenance around the 800-year-old Heeia fishpond.

Volunteers on Maui worked at The Hawaiʻi Land Trust’s Waihe‘e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge, a 277-acre site dedicated to active restoration programs that enhance critical native wildlife habitats while preserving the area’s rich archaeological and cultural resources. Volunteers worked on projects that included preparing the site for fishpond wall restoration and invasive species removal around native plants.

Participants volunteered at 2 sites on Hawaii Island: Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a Forest Reserve in North Kona and Haleolono in Hilo. At Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a, volunteers worked with nonprofit Ka‘ahahui o ka Nāhelehele on projects to help restore the area’s unique dryland forest environment. Rich in historical significance and indigenous flora and fauna, the area is also home to nesting nene, or Hawaiian geese. The volunteers planted native plants and collected native seeds, cleared invasive grass and vines to restore the dryland forest, and restored trails for visitors to enjoy the landscape. Hilo employees worked at Haleolono to remove invasive species and help restore the wall of the ancient fishpond managed by the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation.

On Kauai, employees from Kaiser Permanente’s Lihue Clinic worked with the Waipā Foundation to prepare loi and remove invasive plants from the banks of Waipa Stream. This is the fourth year that Kaiser Permanente has volunteered at Waipa Stream during its annual day of service.

“The medical care we provide in our Kaiser Permanente facilities is just a small part of what helps communities stay healthy,” said John Yang, MD, president and medical director for the Hawaii Permanente Medical Group. “We’re thrilled to resume our annual day of service and proud to mobilize hundreds of our physicians, providers, and staff — as well as their family and friends — to support organizations that promote cultural health and work on the ground to heal the aina.”

The annual day of service was canceled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and postponed earlier this year due to the omicron variant surge in January 2022. Kaiser Permanente employed several COVID-19 safety measures for this outdoor service activity.