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Strengthening Hawai‘i’s Communities
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The Maui Farm

Growing Confidence

Maui FarmA sign at The Maui Farm in Makawao notes the “rules” of the garden, including to be kind.
Photo courtesy of The Maui Farm

Plants need sunshine, water and love. So, too, do families. At The Maui Farm (TMF) in Upcountry Makawao, single mothers and their children get what they need to flourish, moving past trauma and into safe, transitional housing on their way to self-sufficiency.

“The Maui Farm makes a positive difference one family and one keiki at a time, using farm- and 'aina-based activities that build on their personal strengths," explains Kandice Johns, the nonprofit's executive director.

TMF is the only transitional housing program on the island specifically serving women and children who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness. Through TM F's supportive services, care coordination, and life-skills training, families can prevent and break intergenerational cycles of poverty, family violence and substance abuse.

For six to 18 months, mothers and their children receive housing and farm-based family strengthening programs at TM F's campus, which has four large, shared homes and a 2-acre educational farm. Clients find rapport in the nurturing environment of the farm while they develop essential life skills, including financial literacy, self-advocacy, personal empowerment, employment readiness, and being a responsible tenant. They also participate in community gardening projects that provide the benefits of therapeutic horticulture.

“The families take turns helping with weekend farm kuleana days, including taking care of the animals. We have goats, pigs, chickens, a rabbit and guinea pigs," says Johns. "The animals provide a platform for families to interact in a very neutral and calming space."

One client explains that the bucolic, open space found at TMF helped her and her family heal. "Plants can offer psychological comfort," she observes. At TM F, "I know I'm not alone and I've learned how to effectively handle stress; and have confidence and independence." She says she has also received help with childcare, job opportunities, and credit building.

The seeds of self-sufficiency are planted at TMF but keep growing afterward. At least 90 percent of the families who successfully complete the program are still maintaining stable housing six to 12 months after leaving, continuing to make progress on their life goals.

"Each family contributes to creating a stronger and more resilient community for all of us," says Johns. "We hope that others will join us in expanding this approach to wellness beyond The Maui Farm."

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