The Hawaiian Renaissance: Guest Post from Surfing The Nations

Aloha friends!
I have a real treat for you today.
While I am enjoying a little Spring Break action with family in town, the lovely and talented Emily Jones from Surfing the Nations is sharing a guest post here!  Surfing the Nations is preparing for their annual ART SHOW next weekend, and this seemed like a good time to have Emily share a little about some of the amazing work STN is doing to make a difference right here on our island.  ENJOY!  (And be sure to click on the “Into the Wild” Art Show link in the post to see the darling little video INVITE!)

The Hawaiian Renaissance

The Renaissance that spread throughout Europe from the 14th to 17th century is familiar to most of us. Literally translated as “rebirth”, the Renaissance was a period where countries that had been previously barraged by crises came out of their despair to experience a renewed enthusiasm for life. This enthusiasm manifested in new discoveries in the fields of music, science, exploration, architecture and the arts. Yet when most people think about the Renaissance, the first thing that comes to mind is art; the immortal images that remind us of the beauty that man can bring to the world.

Fast forward to 2008, to Ohai Street, an urban street in Wahiawa, Hawaii, once known as “Blood Alley” for the amount of violent deaths that occurred there. Violence, crime, and gang activity were just some of the words associated with Ohai; and caught in midst of it all were the children. A humanitarian organization, Surfing The Nations, had just moved into the neighborhood and acquired an old building that was once a bar and the derelict adjoining apartment building. Among the many programs that Surfing The Nations ran, there was an obvious need for a program to care for the neighborhood kids who were unsupervised and looking for something to do.

The Ulu Pono Kids program was started in January 2009. “Ulu Pono”, Hawaiian phrase meaning to thrive on a righteous path, started out small, with after school activities like shooting hoops at the park and helping with homework. With funding from Friends of Hawaii Charities, Ulu Pono was able to hire professional instructors in the fine arts to establish a program to bring opportunities the arts to the kids of lower Wahiawa.

Surfing The Nations wanted the kids to express themselves through art, but also to know how valuable their work was. They did this by putting on their very own art show. Well-known artists were invited to attend and display their artwork in a gallery alongside the children’s. The art shows were brilliant successes, with performances from the kids, inspiring speakers, and of course, the children’s art proudly being displayed, and some pieces even being purchased.

One of the most touching stories of Renaissance-like progress is the story of Bryant. Bryant is 10 years old, from the Marshall Islands, and is as energetic and loud as they come. When he first starting coming to Ulu Pono, Bryant was constantly teased by his peers since he was in the third grade and still unable to read. He’d lost confidence in himself and his ability to create anything of worth. As soon as Bryant was given a paintbrush, or a pencil, it was obvious that he had a gift. Progressively, the boy who was usually fidgety became extremely focused; the boy who used to give up on things was eager to finish his work, even asking for more projects.

Surfing The Nations, through the Ulu Pono program, is striving to introduce a new way of living to the kids of Ohai Street. Their vision is that the neighborhood’s history of addiction, abuse and crime would not be repeated in this next generation; that a monumental change would take place that would restore the beauty of Wahiawa. Through something like art, hope would spread like spilled paint,with tracks marking a trail for others to follow.

The thing about the Renaissance that perhaps affected the world more deeply than anything is the re-emerging of hope; the hope that reclaimed human identity. The rebirth of the truth that life had value and worth, and people were capable of bringing beauty in places where struggle and death reigned. That sorrow had its end, and abundant life had a chance.  -EJ

If you are on Oahu, come be a part of history in the making at the “Into The Wild” Art Show, Saturday, March 30th, 6-10 PM at Surfing The Nations headquarters, 63 South Kamehameha Highway, Wahiawa, Oahu.

To keep up with what Surfing The Nations is doing, check out their twitter, Facebook and instagram.



Emily Jones is a humanitarian writer volunteering full-time with Surfing The Nations, a non-profit organization based in Wahiawa, Hawaii. Emily has a passion for media, kids and the unending process of learning! She employs all these passions through her creative work: writing for the STN blog weekly, creative direction on videos and managing all the social media outlets for the organization like Pintrest, Instagram and Twitter. When she’s not working, you can find EmJ chuckling along to Jimmy Fallon, cooking up a storm, listening to her online philosophy lectures or cruising with friends.

ALOHA friends!  Have a great weekend…

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