A role model worthy of our children: Malia Cahill is fighting for us all
Rainbows. Sunsets. Lush mountains. Aquamarine seas. Vibrant coral reefs. Crashing surf. Simmering volcanoes. Hawaii’s natural wonders are globally magnetic, a core reason that 8.9 million people visited our state last year – six times more people than the number who actually live here!
Of course, Hawaii has a lot else going for it: world-beating hotels. Fresh, organic and original cuisine. Glorious sunshine that beckons visitors outdoors to splash in the water, breathe in the oxygen and forget about their cell phones.
Yet there is something more – something essential to the true identity of Hawaii. The word may feel cliche through overuse, but the deep meaning of this word defines certain people in this place: aloha.
This is a human quality, and it speaks to what makes Hawaii profoundly special: the resident people who emanate and share aloha, a blend of kindness, welcoming, connection, care, pride, respect and love.
One woman who embodies aloha is Malia Cahill. Upcountry born and raised, Malia emits aloha when you meet her. She has a smile and a kind word for everyone she meets. She is vibrant, passionate and committed to the sustainability and success of her home island. She is a hardworking idealist who believes that change is possible, people can learn and adapt, and that she will be an agent of this change.
Consider the nonprofit organization she has worked so hard to found and lead, the Maui Huliau Foundation. Established in 2010, the organization exists to provide transformative educational opportunities to Maui’s youth, so that through teamwork and problem solving, the next generation will be better prepared to take on the very real challenges facing the future of our beloved island.
Through intensive nature camps, professional quality video production courses, and training young people to think, speak, collaborate and advocate, Maui Huliau is preparing Maui’s next generation. Malia is fortunate to have a powerful team, including Program Assistant Ashley O’Colmain and student Kaimana Idica. These people and others make Maui Huliau’s work possible.
Malia’s energy is irrepressible. She carpools with students all over the island to bring them together; designs, plans, films and edits award-winning environmental videos; sponsors film festivals and benefit celebrations; leads hikes into nature preserves; builds creative and professional alliances with fellow advocates in California, South Africa and the Caribbean; and she stays up late into the night doing the diligent, technical and patient work of video editing, making her students’ productions ready for worldwide dissemination.
In terms of transforming habits, she has been the most important leader in building a program of Ocean-Friendly Restaurants on Maui. This program certifies restaurants as ocean-friendly if they minimize polystyrene, single-use plastic and waste in their operations. Twenty-six restaurants have been certified so far, in large part because of Malia’s determination. (Check out this sharp website for the full list: www.oceanfriendlyrestaurantshawaii.org/maui.html.)
Malia has also assisted major events in becoming zero waste (using compostable products, composting food, eliminating single-use plastic) under the Maui Huliau banner, and the demand to do this has far outstripped the hours in her day. In short, Maui needs more people like Malia.
In an age when too many people look up to Kanye West, Kim Kardashian and whatever music/movie/fashion star is the flavor of the hour on Insta-Snap-Face-Gram, it’s absolutely refreshing to have a worthy role model. Malia is someone who works hard every day according to her values to create the world she wants to see.
There are a lot of impressive people on Maui. When tourists come and go and come again, they do so because the people of our precious island home have touched them with their authenticity, kindness and aloha. For me, as a resident of Hawaii for 13 years, it’s people like Malia – idealistic and positive people who brighten the world – that reinforce my love for Maui and sustain the spirit of aloha.
To learn more about the Maui Huliau Foundation, go here: www.mauihuliaufoundation.org/.
To contact me, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.