Author Archives: Todd Yamashita

Ekolu Kalama Wins Major Stand-Up Paddle Race in Germany

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Ekolu Kalama wins the both the sprint and distance division races at the Stand-Up Paddle Racing World Cup in Germany amidst 27,000 spectators last weekend. (skip to 1:35 in the video below)

By Todd Yamashita

Molokai boy, Ekolu Kalama made some major waves in the otherwise placid waters of Hamburg, Germany last weekend. Kalama won both the 200 meter sprint and the 10,000 meter (roughly four miles) distance race in the first ever Standup Paddling World Cup.

With over 27,000 fans and 143 competitors, Kalama represented Molokai and Hawaii well in one of the fastest growing sports world wide. “It was really good and rewarding – but also tiring. There was stiff competition,” said Kalama in a televised interview.

Molokai Pharmacy At Risk

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Quality of health care is also at stake as community rallies to convince state agency not to restrict union members from doing business with the island’s only drug store.

By Molokai Dispatch Staff

A state-wide plan could require Molokai union members to order prescriptions through the mail. Unless Molokai is granted an exemption from the plan, the island’s only pharmacy, Molokai Drugs, could teeter on the brink of closure, according to the establishment’s owners.

A few weeks ago, the greater Molokai community became aware that the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF) had entered into a contract with InformedRx, Inc, a mainland-based company. The move will prevent members of United Public Workers (UPW) and Hawaii Government Employees Association (HGEA) from filling their maintenance drug prescriptions at Molokai Drugs.

The Halawa School

Monday, July 13th, 2009

The Halawa  SchoolA personal connection to a historic place

By Catherine Aki

When my grandfather died, my grandmother went on a cruise to Hawaii with her sister. The visit prompted her to tell us about her family and how they almost moved to Hawaii during the Depression.  She told us, “You could have been raised in Hawaii.” At the time I was in my teens so the details of the story have faded with time. Later in life I would learn that I had family who already lived in Hawaii.

More recently, I read through a 1936 Star Bulletin article about the 50th year Halawa School Anniversary. The school had originally been built with three rooms, in 1886, by a man named Henry Van Gieson. The school was so popular that students came from as far away as Kaunakakai through Kamalo, Kaluaaha, Waialua, Honouli, and Wailau even though those communities had schools of their own. After ten years Van Gieson left.

The succession of teachers after that were Mr. Wilson, Mr. Wagner, Peter Pascal, Simeon Kalua, Miss Emma Kane, Mathew Kane and David Kalaau who taught for more that 24 years. At the time of the anniversary, Edwin Kaupu was the principal.  The invocation of the ceremony was given by Rev. Issac D.  Iaea.  In attendance were various school delegates and about 100 alumni.  Mr. Van Gieson had already passed on and his wife was too sick to represent him, so two of his children and a granddaughter came instead.  The granddaughter’s name was Inez Hawkins who, coincidentally, was my grandmother’s first cousin.

It was such a surprise to realize that my family had a connection not only to Hawaii and Molokai, but actually to Halawa. Although it is just a single thread, it is still a multi-generational link - something that many of the non-native land owners do not have.  I had the story in my possession for years without realizing there was any relevancy, but it has been a “treat” to find it after all this time.

On Molokai, I am sure people are chuckling about how weak my thread is, and that is to be expected. But that is because this is an island where people still live where their ancestor’s bones have rested for at least 1000 years.

Yet, I hear stories about people coming from the outside expecting Molokai to change without realizing how connected indigenous people are to place. On a single parcel of land the same family may have lived for 75 to 100 generations. It has not been bought and sold but instead lived on forever in Hawaiian time. For most westerners, we cannot fathom this because land is such a commodity.

A while back I spent a lot of time in Halawa and I used to feel different things in the valley. I used to wonder what kind of learning environment could again be created which would utilize a more “traditional” family type teaching. Maybe it was just daydreaming or maybe it was a realization of Halawa’s long educational legacy.  The school, built in 1886, lasted until about 1956 or so. 

And it continues to make me smile that the first teacher in Halawa had a granddaughter who was my grandmother’s first cousin.

Hyper-Local News, Moloka`i Style

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Akaku Press Release

Akaku: Maui Community Television Hosts Todd Yamashita, Owner/Editor of The Moloka`i Dispatch Discusses News for the Friendly Isle on
Friday, June 26 at 6pm

Kahului, June 8- Akaku: Maui Community Television (Akaku) will host Todd Yamashita, owner and editor of The Molokai Dispatch on Friday, June 26 from 6-8pm at its digital lounge at 333 Dairy Road, Kahului. Independent community producers and attendees will be able to ask questions and “talk-story” with Yamashita after a brief presentation on the theme: “News for the People of Molokai.” The event is open to the public and a suggested donation of $5 to cover food and beverage costs is welcomed. Interested individuals should R.S.V.P to reserve a seat, as space will be limited.

Branded as “News for the people of Molokai,” the Molokai Dispatch advocates Hawaiian culture, family values, education, community dialogue, accountability in leadership, and sustainable practices.

Fiery Faith

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Fiery FaithNew Kaunakakai fire station breaks ground.

By Melissa Kelsey

Molokai fire fighters may be experts at putting out flames, but they have not put out their faith in the construction of the new Kaunakakai fire station. When community members picked up golden shovels to dig up earth last Monday for the groundbreaking of the new station, it had been more than seven years since the idea for the project was originally conceived. At its future location just east of town, across the street from the Molokai Education Center, Reverend Jimmy Duvauchelle said a blessing and spoke on the importance of keeping faith.

Time for an Upgrade

There are several reasons community members want a new fire station, according to firefighter Greg Jenkins, the County of Maui coordinator for the project.

The Kaunakakai fire station is currently located next to Mitchell Pauole Center in an area that frequently floods, and Jenkins said water in the building can impede efficient operations.

“We have waded to our trucks in a foot of water,” he said.

More importantly, the current station is so central in town that first responders have to immediately drive past baseball fields, Kaunakakai Elementary School and other congested community centers. Firefighters point out that on occasion, this creates delays and safety issues for pedestrians.

In addition, firefighters and their equipment have outgrown the station, and there is not enough storage space.

Molokai Classroom

The new station will have the most advanced fire fighting training facilities in the County of Maui, and will rank among the top in the state. The building will include a large classroom for public safety training. Towers in the new station design will be used for rope rescue training, confined space training and ladder training. A smaller tower will be used to simulate second story building rescues. Jenkins said the training space may attract educational programs throughout the state and nationally, possibly being significant enough to boost local economy.

“People could come to Molokai for training and stay at Hotel Molokai,” said Jenkins.

A Long Road

The Maui-based construction company Maui Master Builders won the contract to build the new station from the County of Maui for $11.8 million, according to Jenkins. Construction is expected to take 18 months. Even after seven years, however, the company cannot begin building until they secure two final permits, according to Duane Ting at Maui Master Builders. Ting said they are still waiting on a building permit from the County of Maui and a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the Clean Water Branch of the State of Hawaii Board of Health. The NPDES permitting process checks building projects to ensure that they will not pollute local water sources.

Jenkins said planning personnel put a great deal of thought into making the new fire station environmentally friendly. As a result of the architectural design, fire fighters will be able to turn off air conditioning and utilities in individual rooms that are not being used. Due to financial constraints, the fire station will not be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. The building design, however, does allow for green additions in the future if grant money becomes available. Fire personnel hope to eventually add a solar water heating system and a photovoltaic lighting system, according to Jenkins.  

Word of Mouth Employment

The new fire station will not immediately create jobs for the County of Maui Fire Department because the fire fighters who work at the current station will simply be transferred to the new station, Jenkins said. Maui Master Builders will bring some of their own workers and subcontractors for the building construction, but a limited number of construction jobs may become available for Molokai residents, according to Ting. However, Ting said that Maui Master Builders does not have a system for advertising job opportunities and instead relies on word of mouth for hiring. Interested workers should contact Maui Master Builders, where the company is keeping an inventory of people who call inquiring about jobs. In addition, the company is surveying its own employees, many of whom are from Molokai, to ask whether or not they want to work on Molokai.    

“Some of the workers for the project will be returning home to Molokai,” said Ting.  

Jenkins pointed out that the construction project will likely include increased business for Molokai trucking, cement and other building materials suppliers.


Who turned the lights out!?

Saturday, April 25th, 2009 is Back

As many of you may have noticed, the Molokai Dispatch website has been down for the past several days. It seems that our host provider decided our website caused a bit too much “action” on their shared server. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky.

Experiencing this kind of “technical difficulty” is certainly not something we hope to repeat and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience the outage may have caused you. For those who had wondered about the health of the newspaper industry on Molokai, fear not, we’re doing quite alright and have no plans of doing anything else but bringing you weekly news from the Friendly Isle.

My Sustainable Molokai Youth Contest

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Aloha, welcome to the My Sustainable Molokai Youth Contest. Use this resource page to download contest forms and to research sustainability concepts and technologies. Then express your own creative vision for a sustainable Molokai through art, poetry and/or essay.

Free Eye-Care Coming to Molokai

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Lions Club helps bring free vision screening to Molokai keiki

On March 2nd and March 3rd, all elementary/middle school children and the students of Aka'ula from kindergarten through 8th grade will have the opportunity to have their eyes screened by one of two doctors from Maui! The Molokai Lions Club have been working with Optometrists, Doctors Karsten Lee and Michael Leong, to bring this service to our children. These two doctors will arrive on Sunday March 1 along with a crew of three young women.

The Molokai Lions Club has arranged food, lodging, and transportation for their 3 day/2 night stay. All 4 elementary schools, the middle school and Aka'ula agreed to the proposed screening. The doctors sent their permission form for the schools to use and this has been sent out by the individual schools to all families. If your child has not brought a form home please contact your school...... this form is necessary in order to have the screening. Several Lions Club volunteers will work along side the doctors and crew to accomplish this mission in just two days! The schools have been extremely cooperative in their acceptance of the screening schedule and providing lunches!! If you have any questions please contact Lion Jackie Cushman, Vision Chairperson for Molokai Lions Club @ 553-5006. A short summary of the doctors background and mission statement is as follows:

UC Berkeley classmates Drs. Karsten Lee and Michael Leong have a philosophy in their practice that emphasizes strong community service.  The Lion's club shares in their vision that clear vision should not be a privilege but a human right.  Also, they understand that it is critical to screen children, who sometimes cannot articulate that there is a vision problem, which could result to vision loss as an adult.  Amblyopia is the number one reason for vision loss in children, and the tragic thing is that it is completely avoidable with screenings. Additionally, working with a team of stellar staff allows them to do more in the community.  It frees up time to work on projects and allows them to help in an area where they are lucky to have some expertise.
The local Lion's Clubs are always a huge support, especially on their off island screenings.  Whether it's setting up the screenings, picking them up at the airport or even housing them, the Lions have been a wonderful partner in vision screenings.
The goal at Drs. Lee and Leong is to screen as many schools as they can.  Coordinating school schedules with their clinic schedules can pose challenges, but their staff and partners at the Wal-Mart Vision Center have been flexible.  They just finished a successful screening on the island of Lanai, and have their sights set on making Lanai and Molokai annual stops on their screening circuit.  Both islands have limited to no eye care.  While vision screenings without doctor support are successful, having a doctor on staff provides an added layer of medical expertise.  This is a welcome relief on these islands with limited access to eye and health care.  The support doctor can make the proper diagnosis, treatment, and/or referral which saves time, which in turn can dramatically affect outcome, especially in these rural settings. 

Drs. Lee and Leong have gone on over 13 international eye missions and realized a few years ago that there is a huge need right here where we live as well.  They try to balance providing screenings at home with eye care to places like Chile, Nicaragua, Thailand, Honduras, and Mexico. They recently setup a monthly eye clinic at the Hana Health Center to provide care to a community that was without care for over 2 years.  These doctors are always looking for ways to better serve the community they live in, and to ensure the eye care needs of community members are taken care of. 

70’s Surf Meet – Slideshow

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Molokai at the Inauguration

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

The Friendly Isle represents in D.C.

By Todd Yamashita

We awake the morning of Obama’s inauguration a little before 4:30am. Though bleary-eyed and exhausted, Noe and I are eager to begin the journey from her parents’ house in northern Virginia, to the capital in Washington D.C.

Today, D.C. is at the center of the world. All eyes are on the nation’s capital to witness perhaps the biggest change in American politics since the induction of the nation’s first president. It is estimated that over 100 million television and internet viewers tuned in to the event.

More important to Noe and I, there are over 2 million who are physically making their way to the same place at the same time. To make matters a bit more interesting, the temperature is in the teens and possibly even colder with wind-chill.

By 6 a.m., we are on the train. The trip into town is only 16 miles as the crow flies and normally takes 20 minutes. But today there are so many people packing in that the train’s doors won’t close and we are stalled on the tracks a number of times. After an hour and a half in transit we become aware that our journey to witness the inauguration is a race against time.

After emerging from the subway we meet up with a friend and begin navigating the city streets. It’s an amazing sight – all the roads and highways are closed to traffic but instead are crowded with hundreds of thousands of people. At one point we enter a mile-long highway tunnel packed with more people than live on the entire island of Molokai.

At 8:45 a.m. we finally locate the Blue Gate which is the security entrance onto the National Mall. Our tickets place us in a good spot - less than a quarter mile from the capital. But unfortunately, there are over 240,000 thousand people holding the same ticket, many of whom are in our line, which is as wide as it is long.

It’s now 9:45 a.m. and in the past 45 minutes we’ve moved just five feet closer to the front of the line which is still so far ahead we can’t even see it. Finally we’re in! It’s 11 a.m., and with thirty minutes to spare, we find a relatively uncrowded spot on the lawn.

The Inauguration
The capital is huge – it’s so much larger than it appears in photos. Although we are not positioned to see the actual ceremony, we are very close to the jumbotrons, allowing us to see and hear everything in detail.

The crowd cheers as various politicians grace the screen --  Ted Kennedy, Colin Powell, the Clintons. But not everyone is as popular – Lieberman, Cheney, and Bush receive jeers. As Sasha and Malia make their way out the crowd erupts again in celebration.

Anticipation is high. There is electricity in the air. Finally Obama appears and the crowd erupts into a raucous cheer. Noe and I can’t believe we’re here.

Canons thunder around the city. Obama is sworn in and is now officially the 44th president of the United States. “My fellow citizens, I stand here today humbled by the task before us…”

It’s amazing. A crowd of nearly 2 million falls completely silent as the president speaks. We have all come such a long way and have waited patiently for this experience. Eight years of an unpopular president, two wars, a troubled economy. During this time of challenge and doubt, here stands an unlikely leader exuding hope and the promise of new beginnings. The crowd is spellbound.

It’s now 1:30 P.M. and the crowds are dispersing. The bone-chilling cold is relentless and all we can think about is finding warmth and food. We watch the rest of the inauguration from a nearby pub. CNN shows Bush Jr.’s 747 leaving for Texas and the entire restaurant celebrates – the city now belongs to the Democrats. A resident describes it as a weight that’s been lifted and the mood is all-around jubilation.

Welcome to the Ball
A quick power-nap and shower at a friend’s house and we’re ready for more. We set off on an “Amazing Race”-like jaunt across the city to the Washington Convention Center where thousands of celebrities, politicians and Obama supporters are congregating for several celebrations. Noe and I were lucky to score tickets to the Obama Home States Ball which combines Illinois and Hawaii revelers.

In D.C., movie stars take a backseat to the popular politicians. We’re lucky – the last major event of our whirlwind journey is headlined by none other than President Obama himself! In person, Obama is twice as engaging and charismatic as he is on TV. After greeting the crowd with an aloha, he gives a quick speech thanking supporters and proceeds to dance with his wife.

Obama and Michelle have amazing chemistry and without a doubt are still very much in love. How cool is it to have a young Hawaii-raised president who happens to be a happy and positive person?

As quick as he had popped on stage, Obama is gone. Noe and I, along with everyone else, are in awe to have shared the same space with this amazing man.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, have stopped by for a quick appearance. Biden seems to be as laid back and jovial as Obama. After joking with the crowd and dancing with his wife, he, too, is  off.

Soon North Shore musician Jack Johnson takes the stage. The eco-conscious artist who normally performs in T-shirt and slippers admits it’s his first time performing in a suit. Accompanied by John Cruz, the duo is putting on a show that’s all about good times and aloha. We are happy to get a photo with Jack after the show then call it a night.

Representing Molokai
After sleeping in a bit we return to D.C. the following morning to meet with Hawaii’s politicians and offer ho`okupu (gifts) from Molokai. Representing the island’s businesses -- Molokai Visitors Association, Molokai Mele, Gourmet Salts by Nancy Gove, Dan Bennett Pottery, Purdy’s Mac Nuts, Decoite’s L&R Farms, and the Molokai Dispatch each donated items – mahalo!

First on our list is Sen. Akaka, who graciously accepts us into his office. From there we shake hands with Sen. Inouye in the hall, then make our way to House of Representatives office building. We meet with Rep. Abercrombie who is delighted with the gifts and we’re quickly off to Rep. Hirono’s place. She isn’t around but her attentive staff makes us feel quite welcome.

Back at Sen. Akaka’s, we take a break and talk story with him about Hawaii and politics. Moments earlier, he had met with constituents and confirmed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. But he was most excited about recently swearing in Gen. Shinseki as secretary of Veterans Affairs, who he had worked hard to facilitate to the new post. We also talk about his support for the Kalaupapa Memorial Act, but most of all, Akaka enjoys talking about his love of the islands and its people.

Sharing with Sen. Akaka our excitement for Obama is a highlight of the trip. Akaka, with over thirty years of service in D.C., helps us to put it all in perspective. The sacrifices are great, but you can hear it in his voice that working to better the lives of our greater `ohana is truly what it means to be a great politician.

Mahalo again to our own `ohana who have made great sacrifices for us to travel to the inauguration. Mahalo also to our Molokai supporters and our Hawaii constituents who helped to open doors for us along the way. The excitement and hope we have for our nation, state, and island are our own personal ho`okupu to our new president. May all of our collective optimism pave the way for a better world!

Much Aloha, Todd and Noe Yamashita

For photos of the trip, please visit Noelani Yamashita's Facebook page.