All across O`ahu and the state, many groups, non-profits, schools, government
and non-government organizations are working to preserve, protect and restore
Hawaii's natural environment. In tandem and on their own, enthusiastic
volunteers are working hard to protect and restore Hawaii's natural heritage.
In The Nature Conservancy's Honouliuli Preserve, they are building
trails and fences, planting native plants, helping to control invasive
weeds, and assisting our field crew in every way imaginable. At the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service's refuge at Kalaeloa, volunteers from Leeward
Community College, the Navy, and other groups have been caring for endangered
plants at a coastal site by clearing invasive weeds and outplanting nursery
grown plants. At Kawainui Marsh, volunteers from the Kawainui Heritage
Foundation have built trails, cleared vegetation from cultural sites, planted
a native garden, and restored a section of marsh to improve habitat for
native water birds. At Camp Timberline in the Wai`anae Mountains, students
in environmental education programs volunteer part of their time to care
for hundreds of seedlings in a native plant nursery, collects seeds from
native plants, and carefully water native koa seedlings planted along a
trail. All over the island, Youth for Environmental Service organizes young
volunteers to participate in service projects like beach cleanups, storm
drain stenciling, trail maintenance and tree planting.
Imagine a network that links all these volunteers and organizations.
Imagine a network that provides them with the resources they need to make
the most of their commitment to preserve and restore Hawaii's natural environment.
Imagine a network that builds the capacity of these individuals to do more
through learning and experience. An initiative of the Malama Hawai`i coalition
is one step toward creating that network of links and partnerships.
The idea for a Volunteer Stewardship Network in Hawai`i began when
conservation organizations met to explore how to help each other be more
effective in their separate volunteer programs. Following the model of
The Volunteer Stewardship Network that The Nature Conservancy organized
in 1983 in Illinois, they sought to create a network in Hawai`i where “volunteers
could provide people power, visibility and education to preserve and restore
precious natural areas…focus attention, become a “constituency,” and attract
additional resources from public and private sources.”
The Illinois model is based on the idea of site stewardship. Site stewardship
involves having volunteer stewards assume responsibility for managing a
site in cooperation with a landowner. It enlists and empowers volunteers
to protect and restore natural areas with the approval and assistance of
landowners, maximizes the impact of casual volunteers, provides a wider
range of volunteer opportunities, and coordinates the deployment of volunteers
to areas where they are needed most.
The Volunteer Stewardship Network will better match potential volunteers
with meaningful opportunities that are most appropriate to their interests,
skill levels, time commitment, and geographic location. The Volunteer Stewardship
Network envisions a more coordinated effort that enhances the capacity
for volunteers to be a committed, trained, and energized resource.
Through the network’s partnership agreement, organizations and groups
commit to work together to enhance the ability of volunteers to care for
the environment by providing support, guidance, and training. Imagine a
pyramid. This pyramid is built with progressively responsible opportunities
that would allow volunteers to participate at the level most suited to
them. The greatest numbers of volunteers would be at the base, gaining
their initial exposure to stewardship through entry level projects such
as trail clearing, storm drain stenciling, and beach cleanups. With further
training, workshops, and curriculum participation, they would join volunteers
at the next level of the pyramid, participating in projects that build
on their accumulated experience.
The top of the pyramid represents volunteers whose skills, experience,
and commitment make them expert resources on environmental volunteerism
who can share their experience and provide leadership and guidance to those
who follow. These individuals would be highly trained and capable of quality
leadership within the realm of stewardship. Through this process all civic
minded citizens interested in being stewards of the environment can reach
their full potential by participating in the Volunteer Stewardship Network.
So keep on the lookout for volunteer opportunities by checking the Malama Hawaii website at www.malamahawaii.org or by contacting Nat Pak at (808) 677-1674.