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Paying it Forward- with Habilitat

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

The other day, my sister and I were in a new market for our herbal business 'The Green Witch Apothecary'. It was a great Sunday market and we had the pleasure of having a wonderful booth of woman next to us from a program called Habilitat. This is a program that has been built to help assist individuals in rehabilitating themselves from alcohol and drug abuse. They were there promoting the program, the vocational programs that they provide to the community such as catering, landscaping, and construction. As the market went on we got to chat more with them on other amazing things they do for the community like having one of the largest luau fundraising events on the island with a silent auction, selling Christmas trees, and doing fundraisers to help send toys to underprivileged kids for Christmas. I was amazed at how much they provided to others and were eager to share with the community about these events and how they help fund the program and save lives everyday.

We gossiped back and forth and we told them about our business and how we help to educate and promote the use of medicinal plants and natural ways of healing through herbs. By the end of the market, they had invited us to their Open House event to tour the facility and have dinner catered by them for us. We were stoked to go and learn more about this program and how we could support each other.

Friday came and we didn't know what to expect, but we were greeted by friendly smiling faces of some of the residents and they provided us with lei's, the traditional Hawaiian greeting to welcome us to their home. We checked in and met our tour guides, residents of the facility, who would be our guide for the evening. Taking a look around, from the outside it looked like a very large home with a couple separate buildings. It had a pale orange paint on the siding with white trim, there was a beautiful old elder tree in the entrance way that had to be over 500 years old it was so big around. It wasn't until you walked into the courtyard that you could see how big the building really was. Two stories on either side of the courtyard housing dormitories, a gym, school, a front desk, kitchen, recreation area, and much more.

The first place we were guided to was the Construction department, it was a medium sized area where we met some of the residences participating in this vocational training department where they work on large projects throughout the community allowing them to gain skills in construction management, building and remodeling, tiling, and landscaping. They also had beautiful Hawaiian wood working, works of art that they had made for different fundraisers to sell. Traditional Hawaiian weapons, tools, and jewelry. We were able to pick out a fish hook necklace to take home with us. You could tell that they took pride in the work that they did and that craftsmanship was something that was taught and that it wasn't about how fast it was done, but how well it was completed. They told us a bit about what Habilitat was all about and what the program provided for individuals.

We learned that Habilitat was founded in 1971, by Vinny Marino a post addict that was working at another facility helping other people with addiction that was shutting down. After the facility shut down, he decided to continue to help the community and the individuals that still needed help. He began the Habilitat program within a two bedroom home that developed into a facility that has grown into a 1.5 acre estate over looking Kaneohe Bay on Oahu, HI and has helped more and more of the individuals from not only the local community, but individuals from all over the world. Residents undergo a three - phase therapeutic process consisting of treatment, Re-entry, and Post re-entry. They are taught to capitalize on their strengths and work on their weaknesses, learning the skills necessary to become leaders of their own lives.

In the treatment phase, they undergo counseling, self care, and a mandatory physical fitness program that assists them in making new friends and getting use to the change of environment. The next place we were guided to was the gym, sauna, jacuzzi, and weight room where residents are given set times that they can use these areas as they wish. Continuing down the corridor, we passed the line of beautiful exotic birds that were the facilities pets; gorgeous parakeets, cockatoos, and parrots. Squaking and squiking at us, one of them a old carnival circus bird that would talk to you randomly. We continued on to see the classroom, computer room, and library. Each resident is required to obtain a GED while in the program if they do not already have a high school diploma. They have teachers and computer classes that teach the residents the basic academic requirements math, science, social studies, and english. The library is filled with old historic art, and pictures of movie stars and all sorts of books to read, with comfy couches, all of which have been donated to the facility.

Next we got to follow two of the lady residents to view the women's dormitories. You come to a beautiful landing and a hallway that leads to three large separate rooms with several metal bunk beds in them. The residents are taught to take care of the facility and their own belongings. In doing so, each resident is required to fold their clothes, make their beds with hospital folded corners, do the morning chores of the dormitory and all be washed and ready to go to work by 7 am. They have a large bathroom and several showers that they all share just like in college and all are responsible for cleaning them every morning.

After viewing the dormitories, we were shown the front desk and enterprise departments. These areas are in charge of keeping track of residents, where they are, schedules, company cars, and maintenance much like a hotel front desk would perform. The enterprise vocational training is in charge of record keeping for all residents, fundraising, administrative tasks, marketing, and sales. They are the outreach of the program and are involved with the community in fundraising and putting on events for the program.

Next we were shown the law office and admissions area where all new residents are brought to check in and where all of the legal action assistance partakes for residents. Habilitat has resident staff that prepare legal documents, go to court hearings, and speak with judges on behalf of habilitat and the resident in question. After that we walked to the outside of the building where you could see the recreation facility filled with Hawaiian outrigger canoes, small hobie cat sailboats, and a large fishing pier that goes out into Kaneohe Bay.

They had a BBQ facility and several out door cookers. They also had their own food truck that goes out to the community at different events and prepares local Hawaiian Ono Gridz. Walking through the courtyard we were brought to the kitchen where residents are also able to learn culinary skills as one of the vocational training programs that they are able to choose while at the facility. We were served chicken parmesan, pasta, and broccoli for dinner all prepared by the residents. We found ourselves a table to sit at and were then serenaded by several of the residence as they played the guitar and sang for us. There were several residents who were very good musicians and we found ourselves singing and dancing with the residents. We ate dinner and talked story with several of the residents about our herbal company, more about the facility and program, our own health struggles and how that drove our passion to start our business. It was an amazing time to interact with these individuals and be real with one another. No judgements, differences, or backgrounds to get in the way just people talking to people that are regular people living life and trying to better themselves. Everyone from all different backgrounds, but all in the same boat of figuring out this thing we call the journey of life.

It was nice to see how these individuals had built a community with each other and how they treated, saw, and helped each other to grow. You could see how the program had helped them break boundaries, interact, and trust others again as well as themselves. Taught them skills that they can take with them back into the community, and build relationships that are solid and built on trust and care for one another. The whole experience made me think about life and how we all have a journey we have to take or endure during our life. A conversation I had with one resident brought about the fact that we may be from several different walks of life, but our journey's could be similar. What we concluded was that even if we have to live through these moments that may challenge us or break us down and find us lost; It is how we approach the journey, the decisions we make to overcome them, what we can learn from it, and how we can grow as an individual from them. It is this lesson that I learned from this experience and that everyone has the opportunity to take control of their life and make changes that can better their lives even if you are at your lowest low. You must always keep looking up and have belief and gratitude in your heart for all the abundance you do have in your life as if you take a deeper look past the underlying problem staring you in the face you will find that you have more than enough to be grateful for. I ask you to take a moment before bed and make a list of the challenges you faced today and then make a list of all the things you are grateful for. Ask yourself, Do you have air to breathe? do you have a body that propels you everyday? Do you have arms, legs, organs that help you function? Sunshine, nature, the stars, family, friends? Even something as small as a pillow or toothbrush, are all things that look minor, but if you take the time to think about those small things and if you didn't have them in your life, how your life may be different?

Another lesson I learned from this experience is how a lot of us don't pay it forward. As I watched the Habilitat girls reaching out to individuals that had come to the market for the day to tell them about the programs they had available for the community or even to ask for a donation. It amazed me on how many people walked on by, ignored them, and didn't even take the time to listen to what they had to say. I understand people are busy with their lives and just want to get things done and move on, but I found it sad how many people turned their cheek to even listen, let alone donate even when it was to help save a life. I understand that each person has their own situation to deal with, but if I have learned anything over the years it's the more you give the more you receive in return. I know that not everyone has the money to donate a lot or even carries cash on them anymore, myself included to be able to help and there are so many things to donate too these days as well. On the other side, my only ask of you is that you take the time to at least listen and then decide rather than turn the other cheek, break through what your psychie is telling you that if I ignore it, I won't have to do anything, and let's make a change! I am a culprit of this as well, but I am choosing to take the time to listen and give more, because even if you donate a dollar it's something. It could be saving someone else's life, and maybe even your own, because one day you may be the one who needs saving.

For more information about Habilitat, their facility, rehailitation program, or if you would like to help support the program by hiring them for vocational services or to donate, please visit their website here.

As always much Aloha & Love,


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