Two year waiting list to volunteer on Kahoolawe

Mahina Macfarlane
Mahina Macfarlane
KIRC volunteers working to re-green Kahoolawe
KIRC volunteers working to re-green Kahoolawe
Jonathan Manguba-Glover
Jonathan Manguba-Glover

By Teri Okita – bio | email

KAHOOLAWE (HawaiiNewsNow) - Volunteers are lining up for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.There's no room service. Or housekeeping. The boat over is no luxury liner. Still, there's a two year waiting list to get on the tiny island of Kahoolawe.

Volunteers are helping re-green the island's arid, windy landscape - as part of the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission's restoration program. On Kahoolawe, it's good to get your hands dirty. The work here isn't glamorous, but it is fulfilling.

"I've been looking forward to this for awhile, and I've always wanted to come here," says 22 year old volunteer, Mahina Macfarlane. She and about two dozen other University of Hawaii students are learning lessons not found in the classroom.

Biology major Jonathan Manguba-Glover checks dozens of biodegradable bags the students laid out in a barren field - to make sure the re-planting seeds inside the bags are secure. It's his first time volunteering.

The 22 year old Manguba-Glover says, "When I heard that they're doing a project on Kahoolawe, I really wanted to go because it's not an opportunity you usually get."

They start work at the crack of dawn - traveling the long, bumpy, dusty roads by pick-up truck. The dirt goes everywhere. They break for lunch - and shade - at the only shelter available for miles. They resume work until late afternoon.

The majority of volunteers are students, environmental groups, and cultural organizations who usually come for four-day work trips. They're housed at a small base camp with dormitories lined with bunkbeds.The nearby mess hall makes three meals a day. The camp can accommodate up to 60 volunteers. It has some running water,outhouses, and hot showers - limited to three minutes.

Because of its history as a military target isle, Kahoolawe remains off-limits unless you work through the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission and it provides escorts onto the island.

At night, the volunteers can attend cultural seminars, and it's those lessons and the day's meaningful work that keep drawing them in.

"Hopefully, maybe like in 20 years, 30 years down the line, I can come back and then, this place will be all green again. And then, that's when it will probably all hit me, be like, 'You know, I helped that. I helped do that. I helped restore the island," says Manguba-Glover.

And when the work trip is over, it's never really goodbye. Just Ahui Hou.

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