Nurturing `Olelo Hawaii
Last Saturday was filled with keiki, mele, ono food, and `Olelo Hawaii—the Hawaiian language. Hundreds of Molokai residents congregated at Lanikeha in Ho`olehua, to celebrate the Hawaiian language and culture at Punana Leo O Molokai’s annual Ho’omau event.
Punana Leo O is a Hawaiian immersion preschool committed to reestablishing the native language,`olelo makuanhine, as the first language spoken at home. The school opened its doors in 1991, and now after 23 years, has served about 400 keiki ages three to five and ohana of Molokai.
“Today is to celebrate `Olelo Hawaii,” said event emcee Miki`ala Pescaia. “Our kupuna were [once] punished for speaking [the language]. Today, we reclaim that right to `Olelo Hawaii.”
Lori-Lei Rawlins-Crivello, an event volunteer and former director of Punana Leo, agreed.
“For our native children in our native land speaking their native tongue and embracing our Hawaiian culture, it’s pono,” she said. “It’s our kuleana to make sure to perpetuate our culture, our language, and our values, so that our children continue to know their identity, where they come from, and who they are in society.”
Various organizations, from local crafters and food vendors to local bands and entertainers, joined Punana Leo in their 21st annual community celebration to fundraise for the school and promote fluency. Punana Leo is the only Hawaiian language preschool on the island and money from the fundraiser supports its tuition assistance program. The theme for this year’s event was “Pai Ka Leo I Ke Aloha”–Our Language Is Inspired by Love— and the celebration was filled with face painting, horseback rides, and performances from talented Molokai youth and students of all Hawaiian immersion program levels. . Attendees also browsed hand-crafted retail and jewelry, artwork and bid on silent auction items for the worthy cause.
The day was about `Olelo Hawaii and supporting the youth who speak it, said Kolomona Kalua, Punana Leo O Molokai teacher.
“The importance of this program is to revitalize the language and raise awareness,” Kalua said. “The language revives the people. To revive the language is a blessing in itself. We like to say ‘e ola mau ka olelo Hawaii,’ or so that the Hawaiian language will live on.”