Our Kupuna launched to fill a need in the community
WEST MAUI — Gabe Amey, founder and director of Our Kupuna, is concerned about Hawaii’s elderly.
“During the deadliest global pandemic our generation has ever seen, I asked myself, ‘How can I help?’ “ said Amey.
“This service is that answer. Our Kupuna was developed to serve a need in the community during a very uncertain time we know as COVID-19. Unfortunately, we do not have a known timeline of when we will have a vaccine readily available for our community. Until then, we are looking for more community members who would like to sponsor one kupuna in their community to deliver essential items to.”
Our Kupuna was launched statewide on March 23, 2020 as a community project started by the team behind Hawaii VA Loans and RISEHI Collective. As an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization under Hawaii VA Foundation, their mission connects Hawaii’s elderly with volunteer sponsors that help them with their daily needs during the pandemic.
Unfortunately, not all seniors in Hawaii have ‘ohana on-island to look out for them during these exceedingly difficult times. After orders for residents in the state to stay at home, many seniors were isolated, and everyday tasks — such as getting groceries, picking up prescriptions and other chores — have become impossible for them to do alone.
Amey pointed out, “We are currently servicing over 300 kupunas on five islands, and we want to get the word out more about Our Kupuna. We serve the West Side of Maui; however, we need more Lahaina volunteers. The organization staff members do the screening and manage the volunteers. If everything works out, we connect them to kupuna in the area. Our motto, ‘One-to-one,’creates a special relationship with our network of volunteers in the field and the kupuna they are helping.”
Amey and staff are hoping for volunteers in the community who are free of COVID symptoms. Other requirements include no travel outside of Hawaii in the last 21 days and the willingness to pick up groceries, medication and necessary supplies for our kupuna, so they can stay home. For those over 65 needing assistance in Hawaii, the organization will collect their information and connect them with a volunteer sponsor.
“We cannot help everyone, but everyone can help,” Amey stated. “We are seeking volunteers to look out for kupuna who do not have family on-island. The sponsor will call their kupuna weekly to see if they need any groceries, household items or help picking up their medication. The main purpose of the volunteer service is to ensure kupuna do not have to battle crowds at the grocery stores or struggle to get to other public places. It is about making sure they have what they need without putting them at risk.”
Kupuna do not have to pay for this service. It is free. All volunteers and sponsors are doing this to help in the community.
“We take the health of our kupuna and volunteers very seriously,” Amey emphasized. “We supply pickup and delivery safety procedures that all are required to follow. We request volunteers travel alone when picking up required items for kupuna to avoid the potential for contamination from another person. Additionally, if a sponsor is unable to personally do a pickup and delivery, they are at no time allowed to delegate this responsibility to another person. Instead, we request they contact us, and we will connect kupuna with another registered Our Kupuna volunteer. All volunteers are required to wash their hands before and after making a delivery to kupuna. If water and soap are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is recommended.”
Amey added, “All volunteers are mailed two face masks (one for kupuna) and five pairs of gloves. We require them to wear face masks and gloves while collecting and delivering items to seniors. To reduce the risk of contaminating nonperishable items from perishable items, volunteers keep them separate during the shopping, transporting and delivery periods of their trip.”
To minimize face-to-face contact and unnecessary exposure, kupuna leave bags or boxes outside of their door, so volunteers can transfer items into collection receptacles.
Our Kupuna always strives to have little to no physical interaction between volunteers and kupuna for safety precautions.
“For pharmacy pickups, a best practice is to have kupuna call their pharmacy to put their credit card in their system,” Amey noted. “For most prescriptions, as long as the sponsor gives the kupuna’s name, D.O.B. and address, they will be able to pick up the medication. When delivering items, if physical interaction is required, we highly recommend that both parties maintain at least six feet of separation from each other.”
Last but not least, kupuna should wipe items down with disinfectant; or, in case disinfectant is not available, leave nonperishable items out for three days before putting them away.
Kupuna should not touch their face while handling items and wash their hands for 20 seconds after putting the items away.
Amey concluded, “Our staff gives a big mahalo to Dr. Rupal Gohil for providing guidance on the safety procedures. Our Kupuna is able to care for the elderly through the help of grants and donations. We would appreciate your support! Our address is Hawaii VA Foundation, 111 Hekili Street, #102, Kailua, Hawaii 96734. Call (808) 400-4506 to donate or volunteer.”