Hānai and the Power of Community

Hānai and the Power of Community of the institute for human services

Hānai and the Power of Community

In Hawaiian culture, a person without a family or home would frequently be embraced by another household.

Corbett Kalama, Vice President of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation grew up with many hānai brothers and sisters. Despite having  13 kids, his parents often took in children whose families were not able to care for them and raised them as their own. Corbett is still in touch with many of his hānai brothers and sisters and continues to embrace people in the community who have lost their way.

The culture of hānai calls on the community to reach out to others in need, to be open to engaging with people and inviting them into a space of care and protection.

IHS’ staff shows this same optimism and care when they embrace the people who come seeking help. It’s not just about meeting basic needs, it’s about teaching these individuals what it means to be part of an ʻohana.

Here are a few ways community members can build a culture of hānai for homeless individuals and families:

  • Spend a moment talking to a homeless person and find out how they’re doing.
  • Round up some household items that you no longer need for donation and include a note of encouragement.*
  • Refer someone who may need IHS’ services. **

The community needs to work together to ensure people’s basic needs are met, allowing those in need to build the kind of emotional strength it takes to move forward with confidence.

The practice of hānai is important to Hawaiʻi’s culture, especially in the community’s efforts to end homelessness. Without it, people may be given housing, but they will never feel at home without ʻohana to instill confidence and comfort.

*The IHS Hānai Program connects people who have the capacity and desire to help with those who are ready to accept it. Visit www.ihshawaii.org/hanai to browse the list of current needs.

**To refer someone to IHS, email help@ihs-hawaii.org or call 808.447.2929

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