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Kōkua Club Extends Helping Hand to Hawai'i Community

Patients Giving Back

The Hawaiian word kokua means “to extend help to others with no intent of personal gain.” As our patients receive this daily from their nurses, doctors and therapists at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Honolulu, staff members in the recreational therapy department wanted to instill that feeling of giving starting at a young age.

“We wanted our patient to experience the opportunity to give back to others,” said recreational therapy manager Helene Freni-Rogers.

Thus, the Kokua Club was born.

Formally organized in summer 2019 by recreational therapy intern Kathleen Tuckness, the program teaches young patients to show appreciation, gratitude and kindness to others. Projects extend kokua (help, support) to three important areas of the patients’ lives:

  • Their neighborhood – Showing aloha (love) to their families and their Honolulu Shriners Hospital.
  • Their community – Extending malama (care) to nearby care homes, schools and others in the surrounding neighborhood.
  • The world around them – Being pono (righteous, virtuous) in reducing their impact on natural resources and leading a more sustainable lifestyle.

“Patients don’t get many opportunities to show appreciation to those helping them or to do general community service. The Kokua Club empowers patients to do projects within their abilities in and out of the Honolulu Shriners Hospital that are helpful and meaningful to the hospital, the community or the world,” said Tuckness.

Giveback opportunities take place throughout the year and have included various activities both small and large in scope – from sharing handmade flower pens with patient care departments for World Kindness Day, to baking trail mix for community firefighters, to cleaning up beaches and neighborhood parks.

“I really enjoyed when we sewed heart pillows for the nurses for Nurses’ Week. They were so happy, which made me happy,” said a 13-year-old patient.

A keystone project of the program was a huge Kokua Day celebration hosted at the hospital. Keiki (children) invited several local organizations to participate in hopes of raising awareness about the issues affecting Hawai‘i’s environment on both the land and in the ocean.

“Kokua Club is good because I learned how to help other people, like how the doctors and nurses help me,” said a 15-year-old patient.

“Shriners Hospitals for Children does so much for our patients, they want to pay it forward and do for others,” Freni-Rogers explained. “The patients feel warm and tingly inside when they see the smile on someone else’s face, knowing they did something to make that happen. We hope this experience will expand their hearts to continue this idea to do community service in their own communities as well.”

K?kua Club members

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