Without skipping a beat or taking a moment to contemplate the answer, Hi’ilei Kawelo affirms that her biggest kuleana (responsibility) as the Executive Director of Paepae o He’eia is ensuring “the engine keeps running.”
Paepae has 10 paid staff members and all of them have families to support.
“I want to make sure that they are taken care of, so their ʻohana is taken care of. I stay in the office, though I would much rather be outside working in the fishpond, working with people or educating the children. My job is to communicate with all the different parties, communicate with funders, ensure reports are submitted on time, make sure invoices are getting paid – making sure everyone is happy,” Kawelo says.
In addition to the full-time job of running Paepae behind the scenes, Kawelo works to incorporate collective decision-making among the team members.
“As this place has grown, the infrastructure strengthened, fish maturing, we are now at our purpose: growing fish for the community. There are difficult conversations to have,” she explains.
Decisions need to be made like navigating the sale of products, distribution of the fish, and more importantly, who to sell the fish to.
“Do we sell to aunty and uncle down the road, or to high-end restaurants in Waikiki for more money? There are many hard conversations to have. We try to do things differently here. We value everyone’s opinions,” Kawelo asserts.
Ultimately, Kawelo believes that having these important conversations together as a team are what keep Paepae O He’eia staying on path, navigating the tough decisions, and staying true to its mission.
Written by Chelsey K. Flanagan