The variety of festive foods, ranging from kalua (roasted pig) to sushi, that have been featured at annual luaus, the diversity of its members, and the name “Kanaka Hui O’hana” itself are all telltale signs that the University of La Verne’s Hawaiian club is not only for Hawaiians.
According to Shane Rodrigues, advisor of Kanaka Hui O’hana and a former member back in the 1990s, the purpose of the club is to get members of all nationalities to bond with each other and to learn about the Hawaiian culture.
“The club is open to anyone,” Rodrigues said. “Many think that because they aren’t Hawaiian, they can’t join. We accept everyone. Hawaii is very diverse and that’s what makes it unique.”
It was previously decided that former club secretary Melissa Lau and Alain Karet, a club member of the past two years, would serve as co-presidents, but other officers were elected Friday.
They include Secretary Stephanie Dreyer, Director of Finance Glennda Bivens, Director of Dance Reinel Campa, Public Relations Director Janah Valenzuela, Historian Julia Shin and Webmaster Kapono Kobylanski.
Plans for the next annual end-of-the-year luau are also in the works and additional events to educate the ULV campus about the various Hawaiian and Polynesian cultures will be scheduled in the coming weeks.
The words “kanaka hui ohana” are translated as bringing people together as family, and Rodrigues and Karet stressed education as a way to achieve this ultimate goal in celebration of Hawaii’s diversity.
“It’s not just Hawaiian, per se,” Rodrigues said. “It’s a whole melting pot. Hawaiians are people with Hawaiian ancestry, but there are a small number of pure Hawaiians. Many are a mix of Caucasian, Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Japanese, and other Polynesians and Asians.”
Many of KHO’s leaders are involved with the club because of their ties to Hawaiian culture.
“I am from Hawaii, and I love and cherish where I am from,” Kobylanski said. “I want to enrich other students, faculty, staff, and the community with why I love and cherish it so much.”
Kobylanski also said club leaders and members get involved with KHO for a variety of reasons, everything from a desire to enhance communication skills to meeting new people.
Though the club was originally founded in the late 1980s to early 1990s, its constitution has not changed much over the years, according to Rodrigues. Club leaders still wish to “promote the interest of the Hawaiian and Polynesian students at ULV, promote the identity of the Hawaiian and Polynesian culture on campus, enhance the awareness of the ULV community in the participation of KHO’s education, programming, activities, and events in and of itself, [and] foster an understanding and appreciation of the organization.”
Rodrigues, Karet and Kobylanski agreed that annual luaus go a long way toward achieving the collective goals of the KHO constitution.
“Everyone seems to enjoy the biggest and one of the last fun events of the year,” Rodrigues said. “Last year’s luau was a success and we would like it to be this year too.”
There are only 45 members in the club so far, but, according to Karet, new members are always welcome.
“The membership is diverse,” Karet said. “There are Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians. All you need to do is want to be in the club, and doing that brings all these diverse people together.”
And if the words “aloha” (hello) and “heahea” (welcome), which can be found on the homepage of the KHO Web site, do not say enough about the club or its leaders, the true purpose of the club can be found in its name.
“In Hawaii, you can probably say that for many, family is the most important thing,” Kobylanski said. “For the club, we are trying to make people involved and others around feel like family.”
Kady Bell can be reached at email@example.com.