Amid the pandemic, these ‘ambassadors of aloha’ have taken on a greater role

Updated: Nov. 4, 2020 at 4:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - You see them hard at work all around Waikiki, pushing their cleaning carts, wiping down lamp posts, sporting their brightly-colored polo shirts.

The Aloha Ambassadors are the custodians of the state’s tourist center.

“We maintain the public streets, change trash cans, wipe down stuff, clean up any mess,” team member Saul De La Rosa said.

The non-profit is an arm of the Waikiki Business Improvement District Association, which is funded entirely by private businesses and the commercial properties in Waikiki.

“Our core business motivation is for clean and safe throughout Waikiki, and that’s for whether or not you are a visitor or a resident,” said Jennifer Nakayama, improvement district executive officer.

The ambassadors clean sidewalks and sanitize surfaces, help visitors find their way around town, provide on-street security and help with homeless outreach.

Joshua Lewis is on the bicycle security and safety patrol.

“I like meeting people. I like meeting people from all over the world,” he said.

Even with tourism just a trickle of what it used to be the Aloha Ambassadors have been very busy. Their shifts start at 6 a.m. and end at 11 p.m.

“They’re out here 365 days a year,” Nakayama said.

And the COVID-19 pandemic has made their mission even more important. Staff members follow CDC cleaning guidelines and they track their work.

In September they sanitized and disinfected frequently touched areas throughout Waikiki more than 26,000 times.

“We just adjusted to sanitizing some of the crosswalk buttons, a lot of the newsstands, any commonly touched areas,” De La Rosa said.

Now the ambassadors have another responsibility, reminding folks to practice pandemic safeguards like wearing masks and social distancing.

They can’t enforce it but they can ask people to comply.

“We hope we are setting the example within ourselves,” Nakayama said.

The down economy cut into the non-profit’s funding, forcing a reduction in staff but not in the work load. With all the new challenges the Aloha Ambassadors haven’t skipped a beat.

Their work goes on and they do it with aloha.

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