Recently Ho‘opono students from two programs headed to the North Shore of O‘ahu and the east side of Hawai‘i Island. The two groups of students – one of adult learners and another of youth – proved full stop that blindness is not a barrier to success, whether on the ropes course, out on the trail or up on Kilauea Volcano.
In late May, New Visions took a group of eight adult students to YMCA Camp Erdman. New Visions is a program with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation’s Ho‘opono Services for the Blind Branch, which teaches non-visual blindness skills to build confidence and independence.
During the group’s stay, students completed various challenges individually, in partnership and as a group. One day, they tackled the daunting Odyssey Ropes Course which takes participants 30 feet above the ground to walk on telephone wires. On another, they did team development activities that highlighted the need for strong communication in group work. They also traversed the 5.4 mile roundtrip trek to Ka‘ena Point.
Then in June, seven Transition students headed to Hawai‘i Island. The focus of this trip was for the blind youth to focus on post-secondary education and employment as well as learn about Hawaiian culture. The Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration, which oversees the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, mandates that 15% of the agency’s budget be spent on this age group, focusing on pre-employment transition services.
During the week on Hawai‘i Island, students were immersed in various employment activities from volunteer work experience to peer mentoring and advocacy. They also were exposed to counseling on career and post-secondary opportunities and independent living skills.
Blind and visually impaired youth ages 14-22 spent a day at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, touring the campus, learning about the application process, Disability Services Office, careers in STEM at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center and other study and career options at the Hale ‘Ōlelo Hawaiian Studies Program.
Later in the trip, students spent time learning and working at the Volcanoes National Park. Students volunteered alongside rangers from the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park cutting invasive kahili ginger and later learning to make wristlet lei with ‘a‘ali‘i under the supervision of Kumu Ab Valencia. They also had a chance to hike the challenging Pu’uloa Petroglyph Trail one day and the Thurston lava tube and steam vents another day. One highlight at Kilauea was seeing the lava flow at Halema‘uma‘u Crater.
Students also got a chance to tour Volcano Lodge to explore employment opportunities in the hospitality industry. Staff at the lodge took time to give students a tour and share what workers do to keep the lodge running smoothly.
The two trips proved to be successful as students felt they got to push themselves and experience new opportunities. And with each of the trips, staff also reported they felt equally enriched as the students they served. We are continually amazed by everything Ho‘opono and their students show us is possible in this world.