A great way to share your aloha with the place you love to visit is by doing volunteer work while on vacation. “Voluntourism” opportunities connect you with people who think like you do, allow you to visit remote and pristine areas, and build rapport with local residents as well as create meaningful vacation memories.
You can give back to the island while learning about its natural history, native culture, plants and wildlife. All you have to do is be willing to roll up your sleeves and pitch in to work for a few hours or help for a few days during your stay.
Aloha for Animals
Maui Humane Society offers its Beach Buddies program for visitors every Wednesday and Friday between 10 am and 4 pm. Take care of a deserving dog for a day and enjoy Maui’s beautiful beaches together. Each outing starts with a safety talk at the animal shelter, where you’re given a backpack filled with dog treats, collars, spare towels and waste bags. Your dog will be bathed and happy to join you for some fun in the sun. Sign up at mauihumanesociety.org to help and have a rewarding day.
Leilani Farm Sanctuary in Haiku is a tropical farm setting for rescued animals and birds of all varieties, from donkeys to ducks and tortoises to turkeys. Volunteer projects take place on Mondays and Wednesdays, beginning at 9 am. Pick a skill that you have experience for, like animal grooming, gardening, cleaning the barn or deck, weed whacking, spreading wood chips and mulch, removing invasive plants, and maintaining trails. Visit leilanifarmsanctuary.org to join in.
The island of Lana’i is home to a three-acre sanctuary for more than 500 cats of all ages and sizes. Lana’i Cat Sanctuary rescues wild and abandoned cats to save them from suffering, reduce over-population and help protect endangered birds. Volunteers are welcome every day to help out between 10 am and 3 pm. You can pet and feed the cats, clean out their housing, water the grounds, cut grass, mulch and fertilize, or pull weeds. Bring a picnic lunch. Check lanaicatsanctuary.org for hints and cute cat pictures.
Fishponds and Forests
Lā Hana Lāna’i is a community stewardship program for volunteers to care for the environment and learn about the island’s sacred places. Offered one day each month, stewardship events allow you to explore the culture and heritage of Lāna’i while working on the land or at the seashore. Learn how to rebuild a traditional Hawaiian fishpond at the Waia’ōpae Fishpond restoration project. Spend a day in the uplands to help protect a native Koa forest by removing invasive plants and replanting seedlings of Acacia koa trees. Go to lahanalanai.com for the event dates.
The traditional skills of building a Hawaiian loko ‘ia (fishpond) and restoring its functionality were reborn on Molokai in the 1980s. To date, several fishponds along the island’s south-facing shores have been rebuilt. These days, the nonprofit Hui o Kuapā is working on the largest loko ‘ia, Keawanui, a 55-acre marvel of indigenous engineering. This restoration work is part of a vision for food self-sufficiency and natural resource management using cultural traditions. A variety of programs are available; see huiokuapa.org for the choices.
Get ready to get your hands dirty and learn about the native flora and forest trees with the Maui Cultural Lands ‘ohana (family). For 15 years, this grass-roots land trust organization has been protecting native forests, stabilizing cultural sites and replanting coastal and inland areas with endemic species. Every Saturday in Honokōwai Valley, where it all began, you can help remove invasive plants, replant native trees, restore lo’i (patches) for kalo cultivation and rebuild rock walls. Lo’i kalo restoration work is also being done in Ukumehame Valley, and native plant and tree reforestation is happening on the Kaheawa Wind Farm. Visit mauiculturallands.org for the specifics.
Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) provides opportunities to learn about the marine environment and train to become a marine naturalist. You can also take advantage of community service projects that help protect the island’s fragile shorelines, coral reef and open land. Check out PWF’s Volunteering on Vacation program and help make a difference by joining beach cleanups or maintaining oceanside trails in South Maui. Go to volunteersonvacation.org for details.
In West Maui, you can help monitor shoreline water quality and protect the watershed on land through West Maui Kumuwai, a movement to reduce pollutants that harm the ocean. See westmauikumuwai.org for more opportunities.
To lend your hand in more ways, by volunteering with nonprofit agencies in Maui County, check out the resource site handsonmaui.com for additional suggestions.
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