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2012 Joyful Mele
Never was the beauty and magic of our Hawai‘i community more evident that on the evening of September 1st, when we celebrated Joyful Heart’s inaugural Hawai‘i gala, an event we called our “Joyful Mele.” It was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and the fulfillment of an inspired dream that our Founder and President, Mariska Hargitay, had eight years ago.
The event was hosted at The Kahala Hotel & Resort, an idyllic venue positioned at the end of the Kahala neighborhood, just to the east of famed Diamond Head and hugged by the beautiful waters of the Pacific Ocean. It boasts of lush grounds with incredible views of Honolulu in the west and Koko Head Crater to the east.
Kristen Chan, Leland Chesbro, Brigitte Egbert, Julianne Erickson, Syndney Fernandez Fasi, Michelle Ho, Nalani McLaughlin Holliday, Stacey Hee Hugh, Stephanie Johnson, Nicole Kobayashi, Catherine Lin, Malia McManus, Jeanie Schmaltz, Wanda Watumull and Sherry Harper Wong
As the sun started to set, guests mingled with one another, enjoyed cocktails and posed for photos between palm trees dressed in colorful lights inspired by the shades of the ocean.
Over the din of jovial conversation, a powerful blast from a conch shell was heard. Guests turned their attention towards the sound, which grew louder as a hush gradually fell over the crowd. The crowd parted as Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a renowned kumu hula (hula teacher) and Hawaiian cultural practitioner, chanted a traditional welcome chant in Hawaiian while ushering guests towards their tables.
Guests followed Hina's lead and found their tables bedecked in linens of ocean blues and masterfully decorated with coral, reclaimed driftwood, shells, candles and lanterns, all artfully arranged by Yvonne Chapman and her team from Yvonne Design. As Hina concluded her chant, Joyful Heart board member, Peter Hermann, took the stage to welcome the assembled crowd:
It's hard to call myself your host for the evening, because I feel so deeply like a guest here in these islands, so very gratefully in receipt of the love and generosity of Hawai'i. So I will simply call myself the guest among you who gets to guide you through this beautiful evening. Or not so much "guide"; perhaps "narrate", is more appropriate, in keeping with this evening's theme of our "na mele", Joyful Heart's story, the story of our origins here in Hawai'i, and our current and future work here and nationwide, which we build and strengthen with the support of each and every one of you.
Our mission at Joyful Heart Foundation is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues. The story of how we do that together is what we are here to explore tonight. As a way to begin that exploration let me say:
E 'oli'oli mai.
That is our saying, our proverb, our 'olelo no'eau for this evening:
'Let us bring forth joy', the joy of our history, our stories, the joy of this moment in time that we share tonight, let us bring forth goodness in all we do.
E 'oli'oli mai.
With that, Peter welcomed fellow board member, the Reverend Al Miles, who led us in a blessing before inviting guests to eat and enjoy each other's company. Throughout the dinner, and in keeping with the night's theme, the musical group Ho'oluana strolled amongst the tables and serenaded guests with classic Hawaiian melodies.
As we planned this evening, we worked on coming up with a name. Our gala in New York is called the Joyful Revolution, but we needed something that spoke of our relationship—and history—with the island of Hawai'i. And the great Hawaiian minds in our foundation brought us the concept of n? mele. Now the irony of me telling you about Hawaiian culture is not lost on me, but, well, I'm going to do it anyway.
We learned that early Hawaiians recorded their history in memory, not writing. There were chants or songs, called mele, which recorded thousands of years of Polynesian and Hawaiian history. Today, Mele has come to mean, more simply, 'song' or 'story.' So this Joyful Mele is our song of celebration of our relationship with Hawaii, our coming together to tell Joyful Heart's story.
Next, Joyful Mele co-chairs, Brynn Foster and Kim Hehir, expressed our heartfelt gratitude to the incredibly large group of individuals and organizations that helped make the evening possible. Among them:
Wendy and Tony Crabb
Brynn and Hugh Foster
Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann
Susan and Bert Kobayashi
Lynn and Jim Lally
Kim and Sean Hehir
Dr. Elahe Mir-Djalali Omidyar
Kathy and Mark Alexander
Loan and Jeff Arce
Rick Blangiardi and Karen Chang
Kristen and Michael Chan
Steven A. and Alexandra
Cohen Foundation, Inc. Mariko and Ryan Foster
The Growney Family Fund
Stephanie and Mark Johnson
Sherry Harper Wong
Asia Pacific Plastic Surgery, Inc.
Sky and Brett Brewer
Brigitte and Bob Egbert
Sydney Fernandez Fasi and David Fasi
Fish Family Foundation
Louise Phillips and Chris Forbes
Cheryl and George Hetherington
Dr. Valli Kalei Kanuha
Leah and Michael King
Melanie and Charles Long
Amanda Ross, LLC
Joyce and Al Tomonari
Katherine Nichols and David Urell
Wanda and Rajan Watumull
Heidi Yamamoto Linda Yanchuck
Brynn also shared a personal story about how she has witnessed the effects of Joyful Heart's work:
Not only has Mariska taken a stand on an issue that so few want to talk about and inspired all of us with her vision, she had created an organization with a deep and abiding commitment to honoring and respecting our unique cultural heritage and the people of Hawai'i. She and Joyful Heart are changing people's lives every day.
Last week I was on a flight home from LA with my family. I was walking in the aisle and picked up a magazine off the floor. I noticed a beautiful, bright smile looking back at me - it was Mariska on the cover of MORE magazine.
The flight attendant stopped me and asked if she could take a look. I shared with her that Mariska has close ties to Hawai'i and that I was a part of group of women who help her Foundation. I told her that shortly I would be here celebrating our first fundraiser in Honolulu.
About an hour later that same flight attendant approached me in my seat, tears in her eyes and asked if she could sit with me. She shared with me that she was raped and abused five times in her life—the first time when she was five and the last time when she was forty. She said after reading the article about Mariska and Joyful Heart, she needed to tell me her story. She needed someone to listen.
She asked if she could get involved and said that if she could be useful in helping others.
I don't know what it feels like to share something like that with a stranger, but I can say she seemed lighter—like she had less to carry.
I do know that I feel privileged that she shared her story with me and in that moment, I became a part of Joyful Heart's story. And I feel so blessed to be a part of an organization that carries so much for so many. Kim and I are proud to celebrate the work of Joyful Heart and their incredible response to our community.
To begin the next portion of the program, Joyful Heart's CEO, Maile Zambuto, spoke of how proud she was to see Joyful Heart work towards its mission in her home state of Hawai'i.
Hawai'i is where our story began. Since that first glimmer of a hopeful idea, Joyful Heart has grown into a vibrant organization that works both locally and nationally to fulfill our mission. This is where our story has unfolded.
In celebrating Mariska and her vision at our inaugural Joyful Mele, we witness a very powerful example of how one person was moved to raise her voice. Here are some individual voices that make up the beautiful mele of how, together, we are changing the way we think, feel and respond to the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse.
As Maile stepped away from the microphone, a line of more than 40 Joyful Heart Hawai'i program participants, partners, volunteers, staff and supporters shared their own examples of how they'd joined in Joyful Heart's work:
I opened our home to host a dinner in celebration of Joyful Heart's work.
My wife and I raised 4 daughters and a son and showed them every day what a healthy relationship looks like.
I wrote a book about domestic violence. A survivor shared with me that it inspired her to leave her abusive husband, instead of carrying out her original plan to kill him.
I wrote a check.
We raised our son to respect all women. Today at 16-years-old he proudly wears his Joyful Heart t-shirt.
As an administrator of state human service workers, I joined 300 staff at a Joyful Heart Trauma Stewardship workshop. My heart and mind were opened when I heard participants say it was the first time anyone took care of them the way they take care of others.
I broke the cycle of abuse in my family.
I co-founded the University of Hawaii Men's Peer Group so college men can practice respect towards women.
I dreamed of developing a program for Hawaiian women survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault that uses Hawaiian cultural traditions as a pathway to healing and now it's the only program of its kind in the world.
We welcomed survivors to our family's land at Lanikuhonua to help them heal with positive energy—and as a Hawaiian man to let them know that they matter to me.
My company, the Bank of Hawaii, coordinated a group of volunteer staff to pass out child abuse prevention tip cards downtown.
When my daughter told us she was being sexually abused by her elementary school teacher at a private school in Honolulu—I believed her.
Mariska spoke last offering:
I had this crazy idea to start a foundation….
It was here in Hawai'i, off the Kona Coast, that the idea for the Joyful Heart Foundation came to me. Which is part of the reason this evening is so deeply meaningful to me.
Actually, I don't know if 'the idea came to me' is exactly the right way to say it, more like the idea offered itself to me, this idea of a foundation to help survivors heal and reclaim their lives. And I said 'Yes.'
That was the beginning of the story, the n? mele, that we are all participating in here tonight.
And I want to tell you, and I really want you to hear this: what YOU ARE doing is no different than WHAT I did. What all the people you just heard from on that stage did is no different. WE ARE ALL HEARING A CALL.
The call that says: these issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse are important. And you have said, 'Yes.'
The call that says these issues need your attention. And you have said,'Yes.'
The call that says the people whose lives are affected by these issues—the women, the men, the children, the families of Hawaii and beyond—need your attention. They need your resources, your best thinking, your vision, your courage. And you have said, 'Yes.'
That response changes lives. Really, it does.
As the program concluded with a lively auction directed by Eric Schiff, Joyful Heart's Hawai'i Regional Director, Kata Issari, made an impassioned call for support of our shared work:
It's been such a privilege to do this work [for 30 years]. I wish that you could know the joy that I feel from having watched thousands of women, children and men heal from the wrongs that have been done to them - the privilege I feel to be part of their story of transformation as they claim their own personal power and strength. It has been an honor, a gift and an inspiration.
That inspiration is what drew me to the Joyful Heart Foundation. When I learned about Joyful Heart, I thought 'this is it'—this is the organization that will move us forward in this effort—so what led me here tonight and what I hope encourages you to join our work, is my belief in Joyful Heart's vision that someday we'll come together to celebrate an end to the violence. In the meantime, I also share with Joyful Heart a commitment to making sure that every step along the way to that end goal - we honor the voices and experiences of survivors as we work to ease their pain, like some of those you've heard from tonight. I share Joyful Heart's conviction that we must take this journey together, in partnership with all of you and the many organizations represented here tonight—and with everyone in our community who's not here.
I feel so hopeful and deeply grateful to all of you for becoming part of our story tonight.
As the night progressed and the stars shone brightly overhead, local radio personality, Harry B. Soria emceed the musical portion of the program. Up first was ukulele virtuoso, Taimane Gardner. Taimane is described as part Led Zeppelin and part Don Ho. And in that regard, she did not disappoint. Lehua Kalima's soulful rendition of "You Gotta Be" with colleague, Shawn Pimental, served as a beautiful segue as the crowd settled in for the performances with a blue moon shining brightly behind the stage.
Last, but certainly not least, San Francisco rockers, Third Eye Blind, took to the stage to perform a series of their classics songs, which had the crowd on their feet by the time they struck the first chord of the first chorus. But about halfway through their set, drops of water began to fall—more and more as their set went on. As sheets of rain blew in from over the water behind the stage, there was a momentary pause as everyone thought about what to do. Stay and keep dancing or run for what little cover there was by the buffet stations? In one of the most joyful moments, the crowd collectively cheered, threw their hands into the air and kept dancing to Semi-Charmed Life.
And that's how our night ended: with a joyful mele.