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Eating and talking at ‘Ohana Enrichment Night

Eating and talking is how a lot of information was passed along to the generations, said Moanikeala Furuta, the Kamehameha Schools Kealapono Program ‘ohana engagement specialist.

Mahea Contrades, the Parent Community Networking Center coordinator at Eleele School, collaborated with Furuta to host the first E Pu Pa‘akai Kakou ‘Ohana Enrichment Night Tuesday in the school cafeteria.

“Our ‘ohana engagement events would not be possible without the constant support of Principal Paul Zina and our Cafeteria Manager Marsha Miyasato,” Contrades said as the group of more than two dozen students in all grades, and three dozen adults, started the evening “partaking together in the simple salt meal.”

The group joined together for the Kanaka Kitchen, where people were divided into three groups — one each to prepare salads using Hawaiian staple foods uala, or sweet potato, kalo, or taro, and ulu, or breadfruit.

The first step in the cooking preparation was learning the various terms, including those Western foods like mayonnaise and mustard, in Hawaiian.

“This is about olelo Hawaii, or speaking the Hawaiian language,” Furuta said, noting how food is a popular way of pulling people together. “Tonight, everything is olelo Hawaii.”

The fun began as the young students were released to create salads, their parents hovering, anxious to jump in and lend a hand, but containing themselves to allow the young hands to carefully cut the uala, kalo and ulu into more bite-sized pieces.

“When people I knew found out the students were using knives, they were shocked,” Zina said. “But we have different protocols in place to make sure that everything is safe, including food safety, where there are table-covering changes being done to keep everything clean.”

Kanaka Kitchen took up more than half of the Enrichment Night, the remainder being left to getting the food and settling in to the mo‘olelo, or storytelling, by one of the “wahi pana,” or places-of-significance speakers — including Malia Nobrega-Olivera.

The free dinner that featured the three student-prepared salads enhanced with the addition of pua‘a kalua, or kalua pork, poi, and condiments, and there was also time for students to investigate the contents of their individual packets that contained booklets about themselves, the pages being blank so students could create their own story of who they are — not just the name, but the person.

“I live just down the valley,” Nobrega-Olivera said. “In what moku? I hear the morning bell every day school is in session. Perhaps, and I will talk to Mr. Zina about this, the sound should be of the pu‘u beckoning students to school; and maybe a morning oli.”

Contrades and Zina both considered the program designed for people to learn how everyday positive interactions can help enhance children’s literacy and education skills.

“This is a no-brainer,” Zina said. “Look at all those parents who were so eager to jump in and help the kids during the meal preparation. But they let the children learn for themselves. And, how many new words in Hawaiian did they learn while doing this?”

Contrades said she plans on working with Furuta to create more ‘Ohana Enrichment Nights.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or
Source: The Garden Island

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