Daily life for Kahoolawe volunteers

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

KAHOOLAWE (KHNL) - Kahoolawe is a harsh and hurt landscape. But every week volunteers come to restore and repair the damage from decades of bombing and erosion of this ecosystem.

Volunteers spend just a few days digging, planting and building a future for others to see. And even without modern conveniences that we are all used to, life on Kahoolawe is still very full.

There the day begins early. Before the sunrises staff and volunteers are up gearing up for a busy 10 hour day.

While there is no traffic, there is a dusty and bumpy commute to work up and down the mountain.

Restoration work is done without the benefit of shade, there are no tall trees to block out the blistering sun. Constant wind is also another element everyone deals with on this island.

Coating everything with dust and dirt.

Without any formal recreation on the island, a refreshing swim in Honokanaia Bay is a welcome change from the heat and dirt.

Before dinner, volunteers get a chance to relax and get to know one another better. Even though they may come from different backgrounds, this experience on Kahoolawe brings them together.

Dinner is another chance to gather, for food and friendship.

Food, like most everything else is brought in by boat or helicopter. And while the camp doesn't have many amenities, it does have full kitchen.

But the rest of base camp is a rustic place.

Huts have old bunks and no luxuries, like window screens or bathrooms.

Those are a short walk away, just don't look at what is under the composting outhouses.

It is a far cry from Hawaii's luxury resorts but the experience is priceless,

an opportunity to have a hand in the rebirth of an island.

"Being able to plant and do what my ancestors have done, long before I was thought about, its great feeling to me and its really great to be here," said Ricky Kamai, a sophomore volunteer from Halau Lokahi.

As they look to the future for Kahoolawe, staff also share the struggles of the past with volunteers. Before the bombing ended there was a fight for the island. Those sacrifices are remembered and honored as well.