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Saturday, September 16, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023

Xanthe Serafin, right, who teaches Japanese at Volcano School of the Arts & Sciences, invited women from Japan to the
Bon Dance at Pāhala Hongwanji on Saturday. The women recently assisted with language classes on the Volcano campus.  
Photos by Julia Neal

O BON SEASON CAME TO A SUNSET SATURDAY IN PĀHALA with the last Bon Dance of the year on the island. Pāhala Hongwanji hosted people from Japan, around the island and U.S. as far away as Boston during its service inside the temple with the dance and food outdoors.
Kupuna to keiki enjoy the end of the Obon season at Pāhala Hongwanji.
     The event is to remember those who came before and the message of the temple service included, "Let us take a moment to think of our loved ones who have helped you become who you are, those who have cared about you, and those who have been loved by you." The service also included music sung by a Buddhist choir, the song by Israel Kamakawiwa‘ole, its title In this Life, I've Been Loved by You
    The service was followed by dancing outside the temple, with some in kimono, others in hapi coats, others in street dress. The people from diverse communities moved round and round the tower, like a May pole, celebrating the seasons of nature and life, this season the end of the harvest.
     Those who participated included many descendants from those who came on ships from Japan to work in the sugar industry generations ago. Many of the descendants are of  Japanese, mixed with Hawaiian, Portuguese, Filipino and other bloodlines that date back to the founding of the sugar plantation that closed in Pāhala in 1996 after more than a century.
From hapi coats to street dress, all were
 welcomed to Bon Dance at Pāhala
     Pāhala and Puna Taiko drummers both played at the event, along with drummers and flutists who accompanied the dance. Japanese food and Pāhala Hongwanji printed headbands and cloths that were offered for sale, along with Japanese lanterns and other collectibles.
     Aikido demonstrations were given in the old Japanese Schoolhouse.

THE HAWAI'I FIRE & EMERGENCY RESPONSE COLLABORATIVE has been established. Mayor Mitch Roth announced this week that the interagency working group will be 
dedicated to addressing and preparing for fire issues following recent fires on Hawaiʻi Island and the extensive devastation on Maui.
   "Hawaiʻi Fire & Emergency Response Collaborative will convene key regional agencies, experts, and stakeholders to formulate strategies, facilitate resource-sharing, and streamline communication to enhance responses to wildfires and other emergencies.
Drummers from around the island accompanied the Bon Dance in Pāhala on Saturday.
    This collaborative effort will encompass representatives from various Federal, State, and County departments and organizations such as the American Red Cross, Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management, Firewise, and community stakeholders," says the statement.
The flute joined in with Japanese tunes.
    "The recent events on Hawaiʻi Island and Maui serve as a stark reminder of our susceptibility to wildfires due to an everchanging climate," said the Mayor. "It is important for us as leaders to come together to collaborate on ways for us to improve our protocols and procedures, ensuring that we are adapting our response abilities to meet the safety needs of our various communities. We cannot do this alone, and we are honored to have willing partners at every level who see the need and are willing to work together for our island and its residents."
     The announcement says the primary objectives of the Hawaiʻi Fire & Emergency Response Collaborative are:
    Development of a comprehensive wildfire prevention and response strategy.
    Enhancement of coordination and communication among agencies and first responders.
    Strengthening public education and outreach on fire safety and emergency preparedness.
Live singing accompanied many of the Bon Dances.

  Identification of funding opportunities for wildfire mitigation and recovery efforts.
        Utilization of local and regional resources to bolster disaster resilience.
     The statement says, "Mayor Roth and his administration remain steadfast in their commitment to taking proactive measures to protect the unique landscapes, communities, and livelihoods that define Hawaiʻi Island. Establishing the Hawaiʻi Fire & Emergency Response Collaborative signifies a significant milestone in these efforts and reaffirms the administration's dedication to safety, preparedness, and resilience.
    "Public input will be a critical component of the work of the Hawaiʻi Fire and Emergency Response Collaborative. A notice will be sent before public meetings to ensure adequate time for planning and attendance. The public can expect meetings to commence in October."

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KUPU, THE YOUTH CONSERVATION AND EDUCATION ORGANIZATION, WILL RECEIVE $20 MILLION from U.S. Department of Agriculture. KUPU has worked in Kaʻū and around the state to train young people in many conservation skills, many of them finding employment in resource management.

A long hapi coat dresses up the Bon Dance.
    Hawai'i's Congressional Delegation of Senators Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz, along with Representatives Jill Tokuda and Ed Case made the announcement this week that more than $42 million was awarded to nine Hawai'i organizations with the largest funding to Kupu. The aim is to "plant and maintain trees, combat extreme heat, and improve access to green space in communities throughout the state.
    “We need to be doing everything we can to make our communities more resilient to climate change,” said Schatz. “This funding will help expand our urban tree canopy and mitigate the effects of extreme heat – all while providing job training opportunities to those who need it most.”

    Hirono said, “As we work to mitigate the impacts of climate change and promote sustainability, this funding brings us one step closer in creating healthier, more equitable communities across Hawaiʻi. This historic investment in urban forests will help ensure people in Hawai'i have access to quality outdoor spaces, no matter where they live. I am proud to have helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act last year–the largest action on climate change ever passed by Congress, which made this funding possible.” 

Keiki with Japanese, Hawaiian and other 
 bloodlines learns heritage at the Bon Dance.
    Case said, “The funding was made possible through the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest climate and energy related investment in our history, so that we can fully seek and obtain the assistance offered for various critical projects. These grants administered by the USDA’s Urban & Community Forestry Program provides the organizations the crucial funding needed to strengthen Hawaii’s capacity to advance climate resiliency efforts. This grant provides Kupu the crucial funding needed to expand opportunities for, and develop marketable professional skills of, the Pacific workforce to strengthen Hawaiʻi and other Pacific communities and their capacity to advance climate resiliency efforts."
    Tokuda said, "Communities across our state are looking at the extreme drought conditions and rising temperatures in their own backyards and they are scared. This USDA funding is critical as we meet the moment and invest in adaptable green spaces, plant native trees and flora to combat heat and reduce fire risks, combat urban heat islands, mitigate the impacts of natural disasters, and ensure long term climate resiliency.” 

Pāhala Hongwanji held a service before the Bon Dance on Saturday. Photo by Julia Neal
    In addition to Kupu’s $20 million award, the other organizations awarded grants include*: • Smart Trees Pacific $9 million • Grow Good Hawaiʻi $5 million • Friends of Amy B.H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden $2 million • State of Hawaiʻi Department of Land & Natural Resources Division of Forestry & Wildlife $2 million • University of Hawaiʻi $2 million • Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests $1 million • City & County of Honolulu Department of Parks & Recreation $1 million • DLNR $585,500. 
The Obon service to remember family members, the
living and ancestors at 
Pāhala Hongwanji.

    U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, the investments arrives as communities across the country "experience recordbreaking heatwaves that have grave impacts on public health, energy consumption, and overall well-being. We are supporting communities in becoming more resilient to climate change and combatting extreme heat with the cooling effects of increased urban tree canopy, while also supporting employment opportunities and professional training that will strengthen local economies."        

    The Urban & Community Forestry Program is the only program in the federal government dedicated to enhancing and expanding the nation's urban forest resources. This is the largest single USDA Inflation Reduction Act investment to date in urban and community forests, says the statement from Hawai'i's Congressional Delegation.

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