What it means to give back, Hawaiian Style.
There’s something about Maui that stays with you long after you leave the majestic island. Perhaps it’s the warm, floral-and-fruit-scented air that declares you’ve arrived in paradise the minute you step off of the plane. Or maybe it’s the crystalline azure water, breathtaking marine life, vast golden beaches, or unforgettable sunsets. These natural resources, this beauty has long been protected by the Hawaiian value known as kuleana.
Kuleana (Koo-LEH-ah-na) loosely translates to a right, privilege, or responsibility.
Kuleana is the recognition that we do not live in this world alone. It embodies an individual’s motivation to care for the world around us…for ‘ohana (family), ‘āina (land), kai (water). It is the constant and encouraging reminder that our responsibilities and obligations to those around us and the natural world, afford us the privilege of enjoying others’ company and the world’s beauty. It is an honor to experience and enjoy these gifts, and with that comes the responsibility to care for them to share with others, both today and tomorrow.
The belief and practice of kuleana is rooted in the cultural concept that the Hawaiian Islands were products of heavenly unions between Wākea (sky father) and Papahānaumoku (earth mother) and Hoʻohōkūkalani (creator of the stars). Hawaiian people were believed to have descended from these unions along with their staple food kalo (taro). This creation story makes stewardship of the land very personal.
Hawaiians have long-spoken proverbs describing the importance of protecting Hawaiʻi and welcoming visitors. “O ke aloha ke kuleana o kāhi malihini,” is translated to “Love is the host in strange lands”. It was a unspoken way of life that every passerby would be treated to food, water, and respite whether they were a friend or total stranger and that aloha would be reciprocal “Ho‘okahi nō lā o ka malihini,” means “A guest for only a day.” This speaks to the idea that once you arrive, you are family, and once you are family, you inherit the same kuleana to the islands as those who have lived here for generations.
Fairmont Kea Lani’s Kuleana Commitment
Here at Fairmont Kea Lani, our philosophy follows the wisdom of the island’s indigenous people. It’s our privilege to care for everyone (mālama in Hawaiian), from our guests and community, to this glorious island we are fortunate enough to call home. So much so, in fact, that since our 1991 opening, we’ve quietly been at the forefront of business with myriad programs set in place to conserve Maui’s natural resources and the well-being of its community.
We and all of our heartists (colleagues) live by what we proudly call our Kuleana Commitment: to preserve the natural beauty of Hawai’i, to educate and perpetuate our rich culture, and to care for the nā kamaliʻi (children) and kūpuna (elders) of Maui.
If you’ve been a guest at our 22-acre oceanfront property, you’ve experienced, contributed to, and benefitted from these efforts, maybe even without realizing it.
Assuming your kuleana when you arrive in our islands can be as simple as participating in Hawaiian cultural activities like our Hawaii Canoe Experience, ʻōlelo (language) classes or making and giving a lei to a loved one. These are just a few of the ways that embracing Hawai’i’s cultural heritage enhances a stay with us and brings us all closer together in harmony.
We demonstrate our kuleana to mālama pono (do what is right) through large scale sustainability projects to simple acts that make a difference. For example by offering water bottle filling stations across the resort we are able to reduce single use plastics each and every time someone refills their water bottle. Our team sources from local vendors, agricultural partners and purveyors first to support our local economy. For more than a decade, we have been providing complimentary reef-safe sunscreen at our pool and beach pavilions. You can demonstrate an understanding of your kuleana by selecting local options where ever you go, such as in enjoying our restaurants’ meals, which are prepared using locally-inspired culinary traditions and local produce. Or in opting into one of the many voluntourism opportunities, which further immerse you into the Maui ‘ohana (family).
We express our Kuleana Commitment to mālama Maui by partnering with organizations that share in our mission to preserve and protect natural resources, restore habitats for native species and educate and share our culturally rich heritage with our guests. Some of the projects that are currently underway include our Rooted in Aloha reforestation initiative, frequent volunteer work days to restore cultural sites, clean beaches, ongoing education for our Heartists to share the history of what came before us and support of numerous local charities. We work to mālama our Maui ʻohana by partnering with Maui Food Bank to support elimination of childhood hunger, participating in outreach programs with our local schools and university to create important opportunities for keiki (children), including the establishment years ago of our Tylun Pang Aspiring Chef Scholarship to support the growth and development of new culinary talent. We also celebrate Hawai‘i’s culture through observation of traditional protocol and celebrations including Makahiki, May Day and Hawaiʻi’s monarchs Queen Liliʻuokalani. But there’s so much more. We champion a variety of programs within our hotel and community to strengthen our commitment, and we support more than 50 local non-profit organizations each year through fundraising campaigns and donations of goods and services.
How to Bring Kuleana Into Your Own Life
On Maui, we have a community pledge called the Mālama Maui Community Pledge. It goes like this (courtesy of MauiTourism.Org):
“I pledge to hana kūpono (do what is right) while visiting the lands and waters of Maui County. I will mindfully experience the breathtaking natural beauty of the ‘āina (ancestral land) and the welcoming aloha spirit of the kama‘āina (local people). I will be ha‘aha‘a (humble) and kūpono (appropriate) in my actions. I will remember that each step I take is upon land that is someone’s home, sacred site, and living history. If I do not know proper, respectful, or safe behavior, it is my kuleana (responsibility) to ‘imi na‘auao (seek knowledge) and ask before acting. I will maka‘ala (be aware) while outdoors, and I will respect the strength and power of ocean currents, rushing streams and the variable and unfamiliar terrain of these islands. I will admire wildlife from a safe and respectful distance, as Hawai‘i is the endangered species capital of the world. I will take nothing from this wahi (place) but memories and leave nothing but gratitude. I pledge to mālama (care for) Maui County, and remember that: He ali‘i ka ‘āina; he kauā ke kanaka. “The land is a chief; man is its servant.”*
As part of our ʻohana (family), we trust that when you visit Maui, you will mālama (care for) our island home, our people and wildlife, the land, the ocean, and its abundant resources.
But you don’t have to be “on-island” to put this soulful way of life into practice. You can perpetuate it in your own life by making an effort to mālama your own surroundings, local cultures and customs, and community.
Easy examples that you can start anytime include:
- Reduce consumption of single use plastics.
- Having the “zero impact” practice of leaving any public place as clean or cleaner than as you found it.
- Planting and caring for native plants and/or fruits and vegetables in your yard, if you have access to one.
- “Shopping local,” i.e. with independent businesses rather than superstores.
- Learning about and sharing local traditions and cultural practices.
- Supporting local artists, cultural institutions, and wildlife.
- Listening and trying to understand opposing points of view.
- Donating to local charities that support your community or environment.
A commitment to mālama, or caring for the land and its creatures, including your neighbors, not only strengthens community bonds and elevates everyone around you. It also supports a healthy environment, climate, and sense of mindfulness and helps ensure that our beautiful natural surroundings are intact for generations to come. Finally, it anchors aloha in your heart and spreads it far and wide. And why not? Everyone can benefit from a little more aloha in their lives.