Voluntourism catches on at Kauai resort

Diann Hartman
Diann Hartman
Malia Napoleon
Malia Napoleon

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

POIPU (KHNL) - To those who frown upon all travel to Hawaii as either harmful to its environment or harmful to their pocketbooks, one Kauai resort has this message: "Go green and go gently, but do go."

It's called the Enrich Program. It encourages "Voluntourism" on the Garden Isle.

"People would say, really, do you think people would want to go and volunteer while on vacation and the reality is that a lot of them do, it's such a great thing that families can go out and do, can teach their kids about the difference they can make," Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa's Diann Hartman said.

Hartman is also the organizer of this program. Some who have already gone through it say it helps them understand the importance of the environment.

"We never know what to expect until we were done, we turned around and we looked and we said, oh my goodness, can't believe we did that," Volunteer Albette Nawai said.

This group of volunteers spent part of a day clearing "vast swaths" of blackberry from Kokee, freeing native ferns and other plants to thrive and grow. Although it was hard work, volunteers say everyone loved the experience.

"When you go to Kokee, you go there to relax, look at the view, you don't really think about what's in the forest, once we got to cut the blackberries, I look at it different now," Volunteer Malia Napoleon said. "Even if you could spend 2-3 hours with your family or team, you can accomplish a lot, you'll see the difference when you're done."

Some of the other non-profits involved in this program include the National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Kalaheo, the Surfrider Foundation and the Kauai Humane Society.

"It's one of the best team-building experiences that I've ever experienced," Nawai said.