Insights & Stories

How to Be a Force for Good in Hawaii during COVID-19

Reading time: 8 minutes 

September 25th, 2020

In April 2020, we created a list of different ways to assist your neighbors and local community amid the COVID-19 crisis. Months later, as Hawaii continues to feel the dramatic economic impact of the global pandemic, there are still plenty of opportunities to give back and make a difference. Here are some new ways you can contribute to our collective ohana.

Donate to Local Nonprofits

Thousands of Island workers have been working through the lockdown to maintain key services for our community. If you have the means and are able, consider making a donation to support organizations helping to provide essential programs in the Islands.

Unsure where to begin? Consider a donation to the Hawaii Resilience Fund, established by the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Omidyar Ohana Fund, which provides food, health and economic assistance to those in our community—including community nonprofits and healthcare providers—that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another worthy organization is Aloha United Way, which has worked to advance the health, education and financial stability of the residents of Hawaii for more than a century. Meanwhile, the Hawaii Foodbank collects, stores and distributes mass quantities of food in cooperation with a network of agencies throughout the Islands. Since the pandemic began, the organization has distributed over 11 million pounds of food.

Also, if you'd like to to help a specific neighbor in need, Hawaiian Electric has created the Ohana Energy Gift Program, which lets you cover all or part of the energy bill for friends and family. There's even an option to remain anonymous.

Wear (and Encourage) Masks

After living with the threat of coronavirus for months, most people already have a supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks. (If you're running low, you can purchase them from local providers, such as a-line Hawaii and Allison Izu, where profits go toward to support local hospitals and charitable organizations in need.)

However, it's not enough just to own a mask, you have to use it too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend wearing cloth face coverings as a tool to help slow the spread of COVID-19. In Hawaii, wearing these kind of face masks is also mandatory; as part of an amendment to Honolulu Mayor Caldwell's emergency order, face coverings are required in both indoor public spaces, including offices and government buildings, and outdoors, whenever physical distancing is difficult to maintain. Do your part by wearing a mask and, if you have friends or family who are unsure or hesitant, encourage them to do the same.

Order Out When Possible

This continues to be a critical time for many Hawaii restaurants and retail businesses that have been forced to distance customers, restrict operating hours or close their doors entirely. If possible, order food or make purchases from your favorite local companies online or by phone to show your support. With many organizations now offering takeout or curbside pickup options, this may also be the perfect opportunity to try a new place to eat or explore other businesses for the first time.

The Hawaii Agricultural Foundation and the Food & Wine Festival have launched Food-a-Go-Go, a digital resource that allows people to learn more about which restaurants are open for take-out or offering curbside pickup or delivery, as well as where to find local farmers and food producers. Food-A-Go-Go has also partnered with Elite Delivery Services to deliver food on demand anywhere from downtown Honolulu to Hawaii Kai at no cost to local restaurants and a flat $10 fee per delivery for customers.

Give Blood

The Blood Bank of Hawaii is the sole provider of blood products, such as red blood cells and platelets, to 18 hospitals across the State of Hawaii. With numerous blood drives cancelled to enforce social distancing over the past few months, donors are needed now more than ever. More than 40 percent of Americans have Type O blood, which is particularly needed; Type O positive blood is considered the most needed blood type due to its prevalence and high demand in trauma cases. Type O negative blood is also used for trauma cases, but is often the first to run out due to its universality in treating premature babies and cancer patients.

Additionally, the Blood Bank is in critical need of convalescent plasma taken from people who have recovered from COVID-19 (and who have been symptom free for 28 days) to help others recover. This plasma contains virus antibodies, which can potentially boost others' ability to fight the disease.

Support the Arts

Although it's impossible right now to enjoy in-person concerts, hula performances, live theater, art exhibitions and similar events, many arts organizations in Hawaii are continuing to offer original programming online or via social media. For example, the Honolulu Theatre for YouthKumu Kahua Theatre and other local theatre organizations have begun producing digital content for social media and are live-streaming productions to be viewed on YouTube and Zoom.

Meanwhile, many local musicians have begun performing live concerts on social media from their homes. Anyone can tune in online to enjoy these impromptu kanikapila-style jam sessions to enjoy local music (and sending a virtual tip through mobile cash apps is highly encouraged).

In recent months, the Hawaii State Art Museum (HiSAM) created “HiSAM From Home," where local artists and curators host educational workshops, demonstrations and lectures on Facebook, Instagram and Zoom. The Honolulu Museum of Art (HoMA) recently launched the #MuseumFromHome initiative, where digital content—including video interviews, audio clips and short articles—showcases a behind-the-scenes look at different works from the HoMA collection. This content is available to explore on the museum's website at no charge.

Bank of Hawaii Foundation continues to be a proud sponsor of Family Sunday, where the Honolulu Museum opens its doors free of charge on the third Sunday of each month and offers hands-on art activities for kids of all ages, as well as other interactive entertainment inspired by current exhibitions. Of course, due to COVID-19, Family Sunday has gone virtual with family programming online. Stay posted for operational updates by visiting the museum's website.

Assist Kupuna

Not only does COVID-19 pose a potentially greater health risk for seniors, many of Hawaii's elderly may not have adequate support networks of family or friends to look out for them during these trying times. Organizations such as Our Kupuna provide assistance to adults over age 60 by connecting them with volunteers who are able to pick up groceries, medication and other vital supplies. (If you can speak conversational Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, or Ilocano, even better, as volunteers who speak these languages can often be in short supply.)

Lanakila Pacific operates Oahu's oldest and largest island-wide meal service for homebound seniors, while the Kupuna Needs Project also delivers food, as well as toiletries and cleaning supplies to seniors island-wide. Both organizations are seeking individuals willing to sponsor meals for the elderly.

Fill Out Surveys

It may sound simple, but filling out online surveys relating to COVID-19 can give scientists and other experts insight to help combat the spread of this disease. AlohaTrace is a community-driven data collection project created in partnership with the University of Hawaii, the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center and the Pacific Urban Resilience Lab, where Hawaii residents are invited to contribute info about whether they're feeling well or unwell daily, or as often as possible. This data is supplied to research organizations, as well as Hawaii public health and government officials, as a form of anonymous contact tracing. You can also answer questions for AlohaTrace's sister project—Hawaii Fights COVID—to provide researchers additional insight on social distancing compliance in Hawaii.

You can also share your personal experience with COVID-19 with the public, thanks to a new public/private initiative called COVID Pau. By talking about the real impact of the virus on your life, you can influence and affect others going through similar experiences, and potentially help shape public policy, going forward.

Share Your Skills

If you have specific skills, such as bookkeeping, writing, organizing, or can manage a social media account (or a few), consider volunteering your services to deserving organizations. It's often tough enough for nonprofits to find enough help throughout a normal year, let alone during a pandemic.

Often, the volunteer assistance needed is as diverse as the organization; for example, the grassroots nonprofit Kanu Hawaii is looking for a grant writer, while the St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii is seeking experienced massage therapists and cosmetologists. Iolani Palace is seeking volunteers to serve as greeters, shop assistants and temperature checkers.

Remember, the pandemic has hit all of us in the Islands in different ways. If you've been personally impacted and need some assistance—resources are available, ranging from rental assistance to help with food supplies and utilities. Together, we'll find a way through this challenging time.

Reference or mention herein of any business or organization does not constitute nor imply endorsement, recommendation or promotion by or of Bank of Hawaii.

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