Becoming Haloa: Teens near final stretch of 90-day challenge - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Becoming Haloa: Teens near final stretch of 90-day challenge

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

56 days down, 34 more to go.  Three Kamehameha High School seniors are a little more than halfway through a 90-day challenge to cultivate, harvest and eat kalo for every meal --  and the whole experience is being captured in a feature-long documentary called "I am Haloa".   

"It's been a real challenge," described 17-year-old La'ahia Kekahuna.  "Nothing comes easy.  It's all hard." 

The girls are still able to eat meat and fish, but kalo is their only starch and main staple each meal. 

"It's not as difficult as it was before to avoid certain foods, so it's getting a little easier," explained 17-year-old Lahele Paresa.
Every Tuesday after class, the seniors ku'i, or pound, about 40 pounds of kalo into pa'i'ai for their meals each week. 

"It's not only about eating kalo.  It's about learning about our culture," described 17-year-old Tayler Meali'i Fitzsimmons.  "It definitely changed my thinking."

And apparently also their future goals.

Fitzsimmons, who is a wrestler and a track athlete, now plans to attend college here rather than Oregon. 

"Just so I can continue to serve the Hawaiian people and to practice my culture," Fitzsimmons said. 

Paresa, who is the president of Kamehameha Schools' Ku'i club, also wants to stay in Hawai'i now and is aiming to only eat local whenever she can. 

"That wasn't a primary focus of my project when I started it.  It's something that I've learned about while I was getting into it and something that I wanted to keep learning about," Paresa explained.  What began as Paresa's kickstarter quest to raise $900 dollars to cover the cost of purchasing kalo to feed herself and two fellow seniors evolved into an attempt to raise enough for "I am Haloa" -- a documentary of their journey to re-establish a link to their ancestors' way of life and what it means to be Hawaiian.

Filming began in February and the girls have since traveled to Kekahuna's hometown of Moloka'i, which included a visit to Kalaupapa and Honouliwai, meeting with Halawa farmers and cultivating kalo for kupuna.  Following the trip, Kekahuna is now considering a career in environmental or marine science. 

"It made me view my island differently, my home, because Moloka'i -- many families there get their food from the land and from the ocean -- so it made me respect it a lot more and appreciate it," described Kekahuna, who is on the outrigger canoe paddling team. 

A greater understanding and respect for Native Hawaiian practices is exactly what filmmakers were hoping to capture. 

"We're taking them to see these people who cherish the culture and let it flourish in their own homelands like Moloka'i and Kalaupapa, so by interjecting the girls into that they're able to experience it more on a full level and so you can kind of see this growth as we go along the journey, which I think is awesome," said Vince Keala Lucero, who is directing the documentary. 
Producer Torry Viliami Tukuafu says they hoped the girls would gain new perspectives but weren't expecting the impression the trio would leave on others. 

"We're trying to make a film that's trying to educate these girls about the importance of kalo in Hawaiian society and Hawaiian culture -- historically and today -- but then seeing the effect that these girls inspire in their communities -- helping communities come together and inspiring people -- that's really been surprising," said Tukuafu. 

The seniors are trying to raise enough money for trips to each of the islands, including Kaho'olawe.  They're hoping to travel to Hanalei on Kaua'i and Waipio Valley on Hawai'i Island to meet with local kalo farmers and learn about sustainable agriculture. 

For more information on how you can support their goals: head to or log onto 


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