Diversity and Democracy

Learning Collaboration from and for My Community

Pālolo Homes is the heart of our valley community. Since moving here with my beloved mother and three siblings, I have had the privilege of calling this special place home and of working with some of the most dedicated women in our community. From these women, I have learned the importance of collaboration in serving the community's needs and fighting lingering stigmas and misconceptions imposed on us.

When exploring the community over the years, I was almost always drawn to the work of the residents' association—especially its president, known affectionately as Aunty Dahlia. From her dedicated service and collaboration with key players, I continue to learn the art of community organizing and the importance of communication and teamwork in sustaining meaningful relationships.

Not long after meeting Aunty Dahlia, I encountered Judith Kirkpatrick, an English professor from Kapi'olani Community College (KCC). I found it strange to see this tall white lady walking freely about the property by herself. For hours on end every Sunday, Aunty Judi worked with the "geeks" (IT students) in the Hale, where they maintained the many computers donated by the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (UHM) and KCC. In this humble building, I was first exposed to the idea of "service learning" and slowly began to understand the power of leveraging available resources to create "win–win" situations for all involved.

I was soon introduced to another dedicated woman, an academic from UHM and KCC named Ulla Hasager. Little did I know then that Dr. Hasager would one day be not only my AmeriCorps VISTA supervisor and professor at KCC, but also my life mentor.

Much of the work we do at Pālolo Valley Homes requires a strong understanding of the community's needs, a knowledge of who the players are and how best to serve them in a collaborative way. Thanks to Aunty Dahlia, Aunty Judi, and Dr. Hasager, I have observed first-hand that when all parties properly communicate their questions, needs, and goals, we are able to combine our resources to effect change.

I am now president of the Pālolo Tenants Association, and in the short time since being elected, I have learned much about the role I play in this special place. I can't say enough about the importance of working collaboratively, especially when resources are limited. As the collaboration between Pālolo and its higher education partners continues, the relationships, experiences, and many lessons learned along the way will help us sustain our commitment to serving our families and community and overcome shared challenges together.

Stephen Maybir is president of the Pālolo Tenants Association, leader of several learning center programs, and student at Kapi'olani Community College.

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