Protecting our kupuna with aloha

by Robert Yang | Sept. 10, 2020

Hawaii’s kupuna community is one of our most precious treasures. They’ve paved the way for many of us who live here on the islands and have enriched our lives with their stories and life lessons. I have fond memories of listening to Hawaiian folk tales passed on by my Hawaiian Studies teacher, or our “kupuna,” in elementary school. These tales always managed to capture our attention and instilled in us a greater respect for Native Hawaiian culture and history.

I was excited when I learned Hawaiian Electric was organizing a donation drive for the Moiliili Community Center (MCC). MCC is a private, nonprofit agency that provides the Moiliili area and surrounding communities with support, services, and programs to benefit individuals, families and the greater community. One of their main services is the Kupuna Support Program, which is an adult daycare program that assists elders in staying active through interactions with others. Kupuna participate in memory games such as concentration, work on coordination and dexterity, do physical exercise, and express their creativity through arts and crafts. Classes are taught and instructed by seniors who volunteer their time and knowledge daily. When their classes end, they in turn become students in a different class — and the learning goes full circle.

Due to COVID-19, MCC was forced to suspend their Kupuna Program along with some of their other services. Their members are at higher risk for infection. That the center put their members’ health and safety first is commendable.

On July 1, Tatiana Quong, a senior community affairs consultant and a member of our Government and Community Affairs department, organized a two-week donation drive called Operation Malama Kupuna. Our company takes pride in helping our most vulnerable community members.

“Not every senior can afford face coverings for daily use especially if they are on a fixed income. And some can’t physically go to the store, so we wanted to find an affordable way to help them get an adequate supply of face coverings, which was our motivation behind the entire operation,” Tatiana said. The company drive collected 50 spools of thread, 16 yards of elastic, over 500-plus cut pieces of fabric, 25 pieces of 12-inch piping and over 100-plus shirts! Volunteers spent many hours cutting the material into usable pieces. At least 300 face coverings could be created from the material donated by our employees.

“We were pleasantly surprised when Tatiana returned to MCC with tons of material that were all cut into neatly packaged nine-inch squares. This allowed our senior members to sew masks without struggling to cut the material,” said Nadine Nishioka, Moiliili Community Center’s executive director. Seniors created face coverings for other members, as well as the keiki who attend the after-school programs. “Many of the seniors who received the material from the Operation Malama Kupuna team were very happy as they were now able to help some of their fellow seniors and others in our community who are in need of face coverings.”

While material donations are no longer allowed from the public, monetary donations can still be made to help the Center purchase supplies. If you would like to donate or know someone who can benefit from MCC’s Kupuna Support Program or their other services, please visit

In times like these, it’s critical for us to pull together to help those in need — from keiki to kupuna!

Robert Yang is a digital communications and social media specialist at Hawaiian Electric Company.

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