Those working to restore the island of Kaho`olawe are bracing themselves for the impact of a new bomb. This time, it’s us who are laying the blow instead of the American military.
Tonight at midnight is the deadline for the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) GoFundMe campaign Aloha Kahoʻolawe 2015. Begun last month, it’s barely scratched $36,000 dollars of its $100,000 goal. The fundraising page says that Hawaii’s legislation gave the KIRC 30 days to “exhibit community support” by means of financial backing.
But that doesn’t mean Hawaii needs to prepare its farewell leis and say Aloha to the island. In fact, Kelly McHugh, the KIRC’s Public Information Specialist, talks of a fate much less doomed than the campaign’s numbers predict.
While falling short on those six digits, the funding initiative has capitalized on another worthy investment: awareness. McHugh said that the call for community donations turned into an “awareness campaign” and that their social media presence went viral. A number of informed individuals joined the ranks of the commission’s membership program, she said–an act which shows promise in rescuing five of the seven staff members who were dropped.
“For me, hitting that $100,000 mark will send a strong message to the legislation but seeing memberships hits a much stronger impact and will integrate into the campaign,” McHugh said.
Despite these handful of donors, there remains an oblivion of grey space yet to be filled in the GoFundMe money bar. The diagram reflects the lack in response from countless volunteers who once risked their safety to plant trees and perform other strenuous tasks to restore land ridden with unexploded ordnance. McHugh reported that out of their 10,000 volunteers, just 400 have donated. Rather than point a blaming finger, McHugh preferred to think about the commission’s “missing step.”
“How do we motivate them to turn around and donate back?” she asked rhetorically. “What are they taking home?”
For now, the KIRC will scale back their volunteer program “dramatically,” McHugh said. This is especially unfortunate since there’s generous support for powering Kahoʻolawe’s base camp itself. Recent legislation allocated CIP funding for the base camp to run on photovoltaic energy, a move which progresses the commission’s goal for Kahoʻolawe to become the first self-sustaining island and a model for the rest of the state. Other grants have been sent the KIRC’s way to contribute to the overall efficiency of their work, but not the actual restoration itself. With all that money to generate the camp but scanty means to repair the island’s mutilated terrain, McHugh said that her team’s “hands are a little tied.”
“We’ve never received money from the state before,” she said. “This was the first year that the Legislature has given us money.”
Directing more of their energy to the campaign’s target demographic, McHugh and the rest of her staff are preparing to instill more awareness into Hawaii residents. The KIRC will continue to conduct their usual acts of outreach such as running booths at Whale Day, attending the Hawaii Conservation Conference, visiting classrooms and speaking with local Rotary clubs. The staff will exert even more effort into their social media, which McHugh credited for the bulk of the funds raised.
In regards to Kahoʻolawe restoration efforts from here, McHugh said that it’s a big unknown. Many grants are on deck, with even more waiting for applications. The island does have two “very large” restoration projects and several other operational projects to look forward to, McHugh said. But she was also adamant about remodeling the KIRC’s “approach” towards the public and those in power.
“We have to reformat our entire approach to our audience,” McHugh said. “How can this be an approach between us and the community versus a partnership between us and the government?”
Click here for more information on the KIRC’s GoFundMe campaign.
Photo of Kaho`olawe: Hawkins Biggins/Wikimedia Commons