The ANA Messenger: Social Development Edition 2013
Native Hawaiian Nonprofit Provides Culturally-Adapted Relationship Education
Keiki O Ka ‘Āina Family Learning Centers (KOKA) is a Native Hawaiian nonprofit organization established in 1996. KOKA’s mission is to build strong communities by building strong families within the context of Hawaiian culture, values, and traditions.
The organization addresses issues among the Native population in Hawaii adversely affecting the development and well-being of Native Hawaiian children. KOKA recognized the need to create and implement a healthy relationship curriculum effective and culturally appropriate for Native Hawaiian families. The target population for the Ho’ohiki Pilina Project included married couples, single parents, pregnant teens in public high schools, at-risk middle school students, parents incarcerated in both the men’s and women’s correctional facilities, and youth in the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. The purpose of this project was to provide Native Hawaiian families with access to effective and culturally competent marriage education and resources, resulting in healthy relationships and stable marriages for Native Hawaiians.
Project staff adapted the “Loving Couples, Loving Children” curriculum by incorporating Native Hawaiian values, and added components on financial literacy, parenting together for success, and military deployment and reunification. Eight facilitators received training to implement the curriculum, and provided workshops to 132 Native Hawaiian couples, over 100 incarcerated women, 20 Native teenage mothers and fathers at a local high school, multiple classes of high-risk youth in public middle and high schools, and 13 girls and 9 boys in the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. Over five years, a total of 775 people, including 386 families, successfully completed curriculum sessions.
Facilitators reported seeing considerable positive changes in participants. Many couples stated the classes saved their marriages and families, and the training increased participants’ skills to maintain healthy relationships. The deployment and reunification component was greatly needed by military families as nothing like this had previously existed. Women transitioning out of prison also now have the skills to be reunified with their families; those who participated learned to value themselves and set boundaries. Furthermore, tools in the curriculum, such as preventing harmful fights, helped students more effectively interact with teachers and family members. Most importantly, children of couples who participated will now have positive relationship role models, and the Native Hawaiian community has embraced healthy relationship education based in their cultural values.