Tag Archives: Federal Grants

New Grants from OHA Announced

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has just announced the award of $329,000 in “Community-Based Economic Development” grants to nine programs that will help make Native Hawaiians “economically successful and self-sufficient.”  You know, when you read enough grant-type literature, that kind of phrasing really starts to drive you crazy.  It seems like there are two kinds of “economic development” grants.  The first are trendy experimental things, like programs that believe that the way to reaching economic independence is by creating green businesses based on sustainable local agriculture and traditional customs.  Or something on that line.  Frankly, considering all the grants that seem to involve “sustainable agriculture,” “green something or other,” or “community kitchens,” one begins to wonder whether there are all that many Native Hawaiians who even want to work on these things. Goodness know I wouldn’t.  I would be very depressed if I was struggling to get back on my feet and my big charitable break was being sent to work on a sustainable taro farm.  I can’t help but feel that there’s not a lot of room for another taro millionaire.

The other kind of “economic development” project are what used to be considered simple charity back before grant writing became a profession.  Things like helping the recently incarcerated get back on their feet or helping people finish their education.  Now that they have to compete for funding with programs that present funding a poi factory as a major act of empowerment, the programs that simply help people get back on their feet have to recast themselves as “community-based economic development.”  The whole thing makes you long for the relative simplicity of legalese.   In any case, here are the latest batch of OHA grants:

Ali‘i Pauahi Hawaiian Civic Club – $50,000 to support the establishment of a tissue culture clean room laboratory at Ka Mahi‘ai ‘Ihi O Wailea on Hawai‘i Island to increase maile production.

WorkNet Inc. – $50,000 to provide training and job opportunities to 60 participants in WorkNet C.A.F.E. (WorkNet Culinary Arts for Entrepreneurs), a hands-on course in the Food Service and Maintenance industries for jobs and/or continuing education at the high school and community college levels. At least 36 of the participants will be Hawaiians who are emerging from correctional facilities or the Federal Detention Center.

Mana Maoli – $49,705 to support the CD component of the Puolo Mana Maoli Project. The CD production process will include 10 culture-based charter schools that have agreed to contribute one track each to this CD component. This project will work with youth on improving their skills in creating, performing and recording music as well as the business and marketing aspects of the project.

SCORE Hawai‘i – $40,000 to provide training and technical assistance (counseling, advising and mentoring as well as conducting workshops) to improve the success of Hawaiian entrepreneurs.

Kula no na Po‘e Hawai‘i – $39,520 to support the homestead yard service/maintenance training program that prepares youth to operate a yard-service business serving Papakölea, Kewalo and Kaläwahine Streamside.

Alternative Structures International (dba ‘Ohana Ola ‘O Kahumana) – $25,000 to support the teaching of aquaponics to families with persons with disabilities and homeless families with children. The teaching aims to help them become self-sufficient and sustainable, as well as promote a healthier lifestyle and provide training and technical assistance for additional income and business opportunity.

Women in Need – $25,000 to support the WIN Bridge to Success program, which provides transitional housing for women with children. The program will help Native Hawaiian participants to gain the skills and personal development tools needed to become self-sufficient and productive members of the community.

Family Promise of Hawai‘i – $25,000 to support its work to help at least 20 Native Hawaiian families with housing and employment services. Through the services of Family Promise of Hawai‘i, more than 80 percent of participants transitioned from homelessness to housing, usually in three to four months.

Corvette Center Ministries (dba Zion ‘Ïpuka) – $24,616 to improve the lives of Native Hawaiians by providing nutritious food, transitional housing, drug rehabilitation, and educational and vocational programs.

Depend On It

The Heritage Foundation has released its 2010 Index of Dependence on Government, and you will be unsurprised to hear that American dependence on government programs continues to grow–especially in the health and welfare sectors.  Now, I will be the first to admit that, when confronted by a bevy of charts and words like “index” and “variables,” my eyes begin to glaze over and I think longingly of cool drinks and reality TV reruns.  But there is a reason to pay attention to what the number-crunching prognosticator-types are talking about.

For example–do you have (or are you working towards) a government pension?  Do you want it to still be there when you need it?  Because when budget crises reach a certain critical point (*cough* California *cough*), one of the first things that they look to cut are pensions and state salaries.

So what does this have to do with government spending on Hawaiians.  Because while a few hundred million is nothing to sneeze at, spending on Native Hawaiians seems minor in a year that included the massive stimulus bill.  But there’s more to the problem of creating a dependency on government programs than just the dollars and cents of it.  As the authors of the index explain:

To be clear: Every person will be dependent on others many times during his or her life, and there is nothing wrong with that. People spend most of their childhoods utterly dependent on their parents, and many people will rely on caregivers during their last years. Dependence on family, neighbors, fellow members of community groups, and—yes—local government is the normal, everyday stuff of life.

When people receive aid from someone in their social circle, they are given an opportunity to repay that aid someday in a similar way. Mutual aid is the glue that binds communities together; it gives strength to families and the greater civil society. Most Americans know instinctively that creating strong communities and families is a matter of caring for each other.

When the federal government provides aid, that aid also binds the dependent person to the aid giver. This aid, however, is anything but mutual. No one expects the dependent person one day to give similar aid to the federal government. And government aid certainly does not strengthen communities and families: If Americans have learned anything about the federal welfare system, it is how effectively it undermines family structure and hollows out communities.

Worse, dependence-creating programs quickly morph into political assets that policymakers all too readily embrace. Voters tend to support politicians and political parties that give them higher incomes or subsidies for the essentials of life; but no matter how well-meaning policymakers might have been when they created government aid programs like Medicare, unemployment insurance, and subsidized housing, these same programs quickly grow beyond their mission and turn into a mechanism that creates and sustains a never-ending cycle of dependence—and entitlement thinking.

Is there a clearer delineation of the problem inherent in depending on government to shore up the health of a community, be it racial, ethnic, or otherwise?  I’ve been worried for a long time about the slowly dissolving sense of ohana in the Islands, and I begin to wonder if this is part of the explanation for it.

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Sustainable Plant?

Sometimes, I really have to wonder about the thinking behind some of these grant programs.  Take, for example, the $444,500 granted in 2009 to the Ali’i Pauahi Hawaiian Civic Club from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  (Yep, federal funds.)  The grant is being given for Ka Mahi’ ai ‘Ihi o Wailea (The Sacred Farm of Wailea).  Again, I have to stress here that this is the actual language from the grant.  I am not making  up the sacredness of the farm in question.  So what is it that the Sacred Farm is going to do with hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds?  Why, the money is for, “Establishing a community and culturally-based sustainable farm to raise sacred and important native plants for domestic use and export.”  Sacred and important Hawaiian plants.  As opposed to non-sacred or unimportant plants.  Not to get too hung up on the plant judgment thing, but I couldn’t resist doing a Google search to try to find out what counts as a sacred Hawaiian plant.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a sacredandimportanthawaiianplants.com.  As far as I can tell, a sacred native plant is a plant with some degree of use in Hawaiian culture + the word “sacred”.  So we’ve got taro, ‘ohelo, and so on.

Ok, I’m getting a little obsessed here.  I just can’t stop envisioning some pencil-pusher in Washington nodding and saying something like, “Of course we do have to protect the sacred native plants.”

What I don’t get is how this is really an effort to help Native Hawaiians.  I’m sure the argument is about creating a viable business for the community, but if that were really the goal, then there wouldn’t be so many limitations on the products of the farm.  Assuming that there is a viable trade in export and sale of Hawaiian plants (which there clearly is), then why not make the focus on creating a sustainable source of income for the community?  Obviously, there are competitors in the native plant business.  And at least some of those aren’t going to be adding cost to their production by requiring the farming to be “culturally-based” and “sustainable.”  Not that these aren’t selling points in themselves–as the organic trend has taught us, there are people willing to pay the upcharge for philosophy-based farming–but who is this really helping?  If you lived in a struggling community, how happy would you be to hear that your newest economic opportunity was in the form of a Sacred Farm?  I just can’t shake the feeling that this is more about helping Sacred Farm then aiding the community at large.

A Feeling of Recognition

Interesting things are happening in Hawaii politics when it comes to support for the Akaka Bill.

Actively opposing it still takes a measure of political courage.  (Which, believe it or not, is not necessarily an oxymoron.)  But slowly, enough concerns have been raised about its effect on the Islands that some of those aspirants to office that aren’t completely beholden to the Akaka supporters are searching for some other language to express their reservations.  Consider it the political equivalent of backing quietly away from a terrible potluck dinner, saying, “No, I’m pretty full.  I think maybe I’ll just have this roll.”  (This might not be the best analogy, in that I’ve never been to a bad potluck dinner in Hawaii.  You all are luckier than you know.  Maybe everyone should have to do a year-long mission to the Mainland so that they can learn about the horrors of the mysterious gooey casserole and wet, salty, mushy rice.)

The result is a move towards ambiguity.  Look for statements that support, “some form of recognition for Native Hawaiians,” and yet stop short of endorsing Akaka.  Putting aside for the moment, all of the debate about how comparable the situation of Native Hawaiians is to that of Native Americans, there is (at heart) a genuine and admirable impulse here:  No one wants to underrate the contribution of Native Hawaiians or the importance of Hawaiian culture.  And when combined with the difficult socio-economic situation of many Native Hawaiians, there is a clear desire to assist that community–heck, this entire website calculates the millions and millions of dollars spent on all of these motivations.  But warm feelings do not make necessarily make good law.  In fact, all of this vague charity comes perilously close to that “soft bigotry of low expectations” thing.  I’m starting to wonder whether all of these well-intentioned feelings aren’t more destructive to the future of Native Hawaiians than anything else.  Stopping short of creating a separate governmental system, but still wanting to give “something” to Native Hawaiians . . . isn’t that pretty close to where we are now, only without making it official with Presidential signatures and much patting-ourselves-on-the-back?  (Then again, if I was Hawaiian, I’d be happy to just get a check for my share of the millions in federal, state, OHA, and Bishop Estate money spent to help me.  Because I’m starting think that I could do a lot more to help myself than any of those groups.)

OHA–Peeling back More Layers

Like many people in the islands, I have (for a long time) only had the vaguest notion of what OHA actually does.  Other than pour huge amounts of money into various projects and promote Native Hawaiian culture.  Those are all well and good as far as they go, but (especially where the huge amounts of money are concerned) one starts to wonder after awhile how they really help the average Native Hawaiian.  Your Kimo on the street, if you will.

No, I don’t have an answer to that.  I’ve looked at hundreds of OHA grants, many of which are in our database and wiki, and learned that (as with so many things in OHA) there are more questions than answers.  We’re working to try to fill in the gaps of knowledge about the OHA grants, but it’s slow work.  (Which is why we could use your help! Hint, hint!)  After all, OHA isn’t shy about deciding what is good for Native Hawaiians in Hawaii, but that’s not the same thing as finding out from the Hawaiians themselves.  Nor are Native Hawaiians some monolithic, homogeneous group that agrees on everything.

Consider the Akaka Bill.  Yes, again.  OHA and others would have you assume that all Native Hawaiians are uniformly in favor of it.  But why should that be?  The concerns about Akaka go beyond race to the future economic and cultural health of Hawaii.  Certainly, there are people of all ethnicities that harbor serious reservations about the push to pass Akaka.  And yet, OHA, speaking for Hawaiians, doesn’t seem aware of the possibility of dissent within that community.  Is this a responsible position for agency with OHA’s scope and influence?  More and more, I wonder how much Native Hawaiians are used as political tools by groups who have a lot more on their mind then just helping out.

It’s Aloha Friday!

The hardest part is finding the little surfboard.
The hardest part is finding the little surfboard.

So it’s Aloha Friday.  It seems like we should start things with a picture of a surfing squirrel.  (With all credit to the Photoshop wizards that created it.)  Granted, this has very little to do with grants for Native Hawaiians, unless it’s possible to get funding from OHA for a surfing squirrel program.  (And I’m not saying that it’s not.)  But it can’t all be frustrating government spending programs and mysterious money trails.

So . . . have you been enjoying any Hawaiian language television lately?  Don’t look at me–I have vitally important Survivor episodes to catch up on.  Also, I can’t speak Hawaiian.  But I do hope that there are quite a few of you out there just pining to see some Hawaiian-language programming.  Because in 2009, the federal Department of Health and Human Services granted $494,104 to Aha Punana Leo for the development of Hawaiian language video content for broadcast.  Apparently, the ability to channel surf right past Hawaiian language programming while trying to find the UH game will help, “advance the social development of Native Hawaiians.”  Of course, here in Hawaii, we’re surrounded by examples and uses of the Hawaiian language, and I can’t see how it does much to offer practical help to the average Native Hawaiian, but who knows . . . maybe a few public access TV programs will do the trick.