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Hawai‘i Advocates Tea
On a beautiful, breezy afternoon near the coast of Hawai‘i, over 30 advocates, working in the fields of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse, gathered together with the Joyful Heart Foundation to talk about the challenges of working on sexual and family violence, and the possibilities presented when different groups come together in partnership.
The guests sat around a long-oval shaped table as the late afternoon sun warmed the room just enough to make everyone comfortable. Joyful Heart Board Member and Hawai‘i Advisory Committee Chair, Valli Kalei Kanuha, started the afternoon off by acknowledging the extraordinary wisdom and expertise gathered around the table. Joyful Heart's Founder & President, Mariska Hargitay, spoke about how her experiences in Hawai‘i inspired her to start Joyful Heart and how much Hawai‘i means to her, her family and to the Foundation. Joyful Heart Executive Director, Maile Zambuto, spoke of growing up in Hawai‘i and the joy and gratitude that comes from working for an organization that brings her work home again.
As guests drank jasmine and chamomile tea and ate fresh scones and other treats, advocates took turns going around the table and identifying their organizations, the work they do and their greatest challenges. Many spoke of the way the economy had led to staff layoffs and basic service cuts. Advocates spoke movingly of how difficult it was to operate with hope when they struggled to keep their doors open.
After the group discussed their challenges, Joyful Heart Board Member, Peter Hermann, asked the group to speak about what they would wish for their organization and clients if resources were not a barrier. Some spoke of wanting to guarantee for their clients that the services they rely on will always be there for them. Others spoke of developing a school curriculum to educate children about abuse. One advocate expressed her hopes for creating a beautiful space where victims of sexual assault could come immediately after their rape to begin their healing.
The afternoon was an opportunity for Joyful Heart to introduce itself more widely to the community, and to begin the thoughtful work of building on its six-year program history in Hawai‘i to include advocacy work. We are grateful for the time the advocates committed that afternoon and the trust they had to share their challenges and dreams with us.