Adopt A Family 2021: After overcoming so much, he just needs a little hand up

Published: Nov. 25, 2021 at 5:00 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 26, 2021 at 4:02 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - During the holidays, Helping Hands Hawaii links the community to families in need to fulfill their holiday wish lists as part of their Adopt-a-Family program.

One nominee could use some help, even though he wouldn’t like to admit it.

Isaac Avilla-Kauwalu has come an incredibly long way. If you ever get the chance to meet him, you wouldn’t know how long of a struggle he has had to endure.

“Two years ago, I would barely be seen around people because I just felt distant,” he said. “And I’ve come a long way.”

Avilla-Kauwalu moved into his apartment about a year ago after living on the streets.

“It was a real blessing from having nothing,” Avilla-Kauwalu said. “From sleeping on friends’ floors, to sleeping on the beach in a tent, to sleeping in a truck, to my own place.”

Janice Fontes watched Avilla-Kauwalu grow up. She used to work security at Leilehua High School in Wahiawa, which he attended.

“I ran into Isaac a lot,” Fontes said. “He was a little bit kolohe, but really a good kid.”

Now, she’s his case worker for Hope Treatment Services.

“Isaac had a difficult upbringing growing up with his grandmother and his younger siblings,” Fontes said. “He helped out a lot, bringing up his younger siblings. Eventually, his mom had passed away.”

“I first started hearing voices when I was a child,” Avilla-Kauwalu said. “At first it was my mom and dad arguing and it grew to something else.”

He suffered from PTSD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental health obstacles. But Hope Treatment services helped him with his battles and finding his own place.

“I have most everything I need,” Avilla-Kauwalu said. “Honestly, the one thing I wish I had was a big bed. I’m a big guy and this is a small bed.”

But he said other people should get the help.

“They could use it for someone else who is more needy than me,” he said.

What Avilla-Kauwalu is really hoping for is part-time work and a laptop to start his science fiction story. He’s reluctant to ask for donations, though.

“It’s nice to know that I have a place to call home at the end of the night at the end of Christmas,” he said. “It’s nice to know that I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to sleep.”

But his case workers will tell you he’s more than deserving.

“He has a big heart,” said Fontes.

If you would like to help Avilla-Kauwalu out, call Helping Hands Hawaii at (808) 440-3800 and let them know you would like to donate to him directly at case number HOPE-026 or email

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