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NEWS | June 25, 2020

Malama Kekahi I Kekahi – Taking Care of One Another

By Justice Vannatta, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & IMF Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – Hawaiian culture has always been very compassionate and giving. One example of these tightly held values is the irrigation system called ahupua’a. This system consisted of land subdivisions that were complete ecological and economic production systems. Early Hawaiians discovered ways to share the life-sustaining resource of wai, or water, within the ahupua’a by creating ʽauwai (irrigation ditches and aqueducts). This made irrigation possible for the numerous loʽi (irrigated terraces).

The word ahupua’a is derived from the Hawaiian word ahu, meaning ‘heap’ or ‘marker,’ and pua’a, meaning pig. The boundary markers for ahupua’a were traditionally heaps of stones that were also used to bring offerings, often a pig, to the Ali’i (island chief). The boundaries of the ahupua‘a were defined by cycles and patterns of natural resources that extended from the mountainous zone to the ocean fisheries. The inventiveness of this system allowed Hawaiians to channel natural streams of water from the mountains through a series of zones that helped to cultivate the entire ahupua’a. The individual zones provided fish from fish ponds; taro fields; logs for firewood, ridgepoles, and canoes; bark for kapa cloth; and bird feathers for cloaks and helmets.

Families that lived in the mountains would bring birds, berries and the things they gathered in the mountains down to the middle of the ahupua‘a while people living near the ocean would bring fish to be traded. Between households within the ‘Ohana, there was constant sharing of foods and items as well as services – not as bartering, but as voluntary giving.

The success of the ahupua’a system was based on the faith that everyone would fulfill their kuleana (responsibility), faith that the Aliʽi would be fair and provide for the well-being of the ʽOhana, and most importantly, faith in the unseen forces that could determine feast or famine.

Hawaiians have another phrase often used – malama kekahi I kekahi, which means, “to take care of one another.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF) has responded with urgency. Shipyard leadership has always kept the health and well-being of its workforce as their top priority. In keeping with this value, Shipyard Commander Capt. Greg Burton and the senior leadership team established the COVID-19 Tiger Team in response to the pandemic. The Tiger Team set out to respond to the many challenges of protecting the workforce and minimizing the spread of the virus to ensure the shipyard could maximize its mission even through the pandemic.

The Tiger Team is comprised of people from all departments at all levels, working together to malama kekahi I kekahi. The Tiger Team’s primary objective during the pandemic was to take full advantage of the shipyard’s inherent capabilities along with innovative ideas to help protect the workforce and minimize the spread of the virus.

“Our mission is to protect the people by being accountable to each and every employee’s well-being during this pandemic,” said Jantzen Nishikawa, Tiger Team Lead. “Our Tiger Team is made up of a diverse group of experts with extraordinary skillsets within their departments. These leaders demonstrate the leadership behaviors of Aloha, selflessness, teamwork, dedication, and doing the right thing. I am very proud of the team; working for this elite group and fulfilling the mission is one of the best experiences of my career.”

Nishikawa put together a Health Protection Conditions (HPCON) Operations Team to identify safety challenges during COVID-19 and formed smaller groups to spearhead response initiatives. These initiatives included advising senior leadership on COVID-19 policies in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, face covering fabrication, three-a-day turnstile wipe downs, hand sanitizer production, cleaning kits, acquisition of additional face coverings, hand sanitizer, and other protective equipment and comprehensive communications with the workforce.

Hawai’i personifies malama kekahi I kekahi – the idea of taking care of family. This is a prominent belief within Hawaiian culture and the shipyard is no different. Though PHNSY & IMF has gone through several challenging months, the workforce, or shipyard ‘Ohana, has continued to thrive in the face of adversity. In true Hawaiian fashion, the Tiger Team came together swiftly to take care of the entire shipyard ‘Ohana, ensuring each person’s safety and welfare. The shipyard is our home and continues to leave the porch light on letting us know that the door is always open for our ‘Ohana.


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