by Kim DunnIn 2019, we're committed to using our time and resources to help others in our local communities. Introducing: The Kokua Initiative. This is Waiakea’s new landmark program for investing in local community projects and non-profits. The Kokua Initiative focuses primarily on education, addiction, and environmental stewardship here in Hawai’i. While Waiakea already has a handful of firsts, we're even more proud to be the first beverage company in Hawai’i to fully compensate each employee to volunteer at least 8 hours of their time, every month, for a variety of local organizations. From pre-k education services to native species restoration and disaster response, our Ohana is proud to serve our community!To kick off the first volunteer project with The Kokua Initiative, some of our Waiakea Ohana joined Stewardship At The Summit, a project designed to help out the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and our 'aina. Volunteers helped restore the native rainforest by removing invasive Himalayan ginger on park trails. Himalayan ginger, a.k.a. Hedychium gardnerianum, is a yellow-flowered ginger that covers Hawaiian rainforests and is native to the Himalayan foothills. There, it evolved and supports various Himalayan native species. However, in Hawaii, it grows fast and paves its way through the rainforest. You may be wondering how that's even harmful... it's part of nature, right? As it turns out, it displaces native vegetation layers, limits the growth of canopy trees, and their massive roots use a majority of water resources. In turn, it hurts the health of native Hawaiian flowers and other rainforest plants1.
Removing this invasive species from the rainforest helps bring back different native species like birds or insects that wouldn't be there otherwise. But.... it's not as easy as it sounds– their roots are embedded into the forest floor. Our team split up to cover as much ground as possible and started cutting 8-12 inches from the root. Days later, the forest guides followed up with an herbacide and carefully cut the stems. Once invasive species is removed, native plants have room to thrive. "You can see the native plants making a comeback in the areas they've been working on. It's exciting to think that, along with plants, our native birds will also thrive in their natural habitat," said Charlee, Waiakea's quality control technician. The whole Waiakea Ohana loved that they were able to get out into the community to help out their aina. Subscribe to Waiakea's newsletter and follow along as we share our monthly team volunteer projects with the Kokua Initiative! If you're located on the Big Island and would love to help, check out Volunteer.gov for more opportunities. Volunteer work is always appreciated!