YWCA - Helen Wai - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

YWCA - Helen Wai

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A consultant dubbed "the Financial Doctor" used to live in cramped quarters in Leeward Oahu with her parents and 16 others.     

But, Helen Wai dug her way out of debt and now teaches other struggling Hawaiians about money management. She will be one of 5 outstanding Hawaii women honored by the YWCA at the annual leader luncheon on June 3rd.

We met up with the Nanakuli native at a symbolic spot. "This is truly where it started, right here" explained Wai.

She credits a "very devastating" rejection for a home application in the Ke Aka Ho'ona community in 1993 with putting her life on the right path.

Founding President and CEO of the Consuelo Foundation Patty Lyons nominated Wai. She said of turning Wai away in 1993, "She cried and after she left, we cried."

Disappointment turned to determination for Wai to find financial freedom at the age of 26. She was a teen mom with no clue about money management, but she stopped spending and started studying.
Wai said, "I went to the public library and borrowed every book I could on money. I didn't really enjoy reading growing up, but I hated being broke even more! We had 2 new cars, 5 credit cards maxed out, living with my parents."

She sold one car for starters and within 18 months, Helen and her husband bought a home.

Lyons was amazed when Wai returned and told her how she turned her finances around. "If she can do that and be so successful" said Lyons, "she needs to teach some of our families how to manage their money."

Wai added, "Their honesty is what got me to where I needed to be. After that, I created my own business from my hardship."

She became a "financial doctor", teaching money management to people spending foolishly, like she once did.

Quenten Cuesta told us, "Just her words of wisdom and her words of reality check that would scare me."

His wife Shannon Cuesta added, "I guess we were afraid for hear the truth, but she would tell us you know truthfully how it was."

Wai chimed in, "Plenty times they cancel on me. Keep telling them I'm only 4'11 how can you be so afraid of me?"

Her tough love paid off for the Cuestas after a sudden rise in rent. "In a month's notice, it was raised from 750 to 1150" explained Quenten.
Thanks to Helen's financial literacy lessons, they went from homeless -- to home owners.

"When I work with a family and they move into their home, it's like I've moved in my home" says the proud consultant.

Shannon says with pride, "meet the mortgage, pay our utilities, buy food and still have money left over."

Quenten adds, "She has brought financial peace and stability to our life."

Helen also teaches energy efficiency statewide to struggling families. She humbly says, "The greatest reward for me is working with a family who feels there's no hope. I just want to be able to show possibility. That's what I hope to do."

That's why Helen Wai is a 2014 YWCA Women Leader.


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