Volunteer Testimonials

Sabbatical in the Jungle by Adrienne Brown

Kalani was an utterly healing experience for me. I was a part of the sabbatical program - it was a big risk for me to invest in a month halfway around the world, in the jungle. But I had amazing inspiring conversations with the staff beforehand - and it was worth every second and every penny.

I was immediately welcomed into the community by the staff and volunteers. There is a lot of care and love in the ohana, and it was easy to access. 

The week I landed, there was a transformative writing workshop being offered, and a hypnotherapist available. Both had wonderful impact on me. There was an abundance of opportunities for engaging in personal growth and healing, with visiting teachers and with the skills of the community. 

I was part of the agriculture team, which I hadn't properly packed for, so right away I was directed to the free box for work clothes. The agriculture team began each day with Hawaiian chanting and gratitude, then got sweaty together weeding and working the land. I looked forward to each day of work, and spread my 8-day sabbatical work commitment over half days to make it last longer.

I took tons of yoga classes with a variety of teachers and learned things that have stuck with me for my personal practice. A stand-out teacher was a woman named Kathy, in her 70s, who gave me permission to be gentle with my body and really listen to the wisdom in it - that yoga is about increasing my capacity to be conscious of spirit. 

I went on weekend adventures across the island to Kona for beaches, and in the midst of it fell in love with several of the wonderful people working behind the scenes. One of them, a healer named Jai, will stay with me forever.

I boldly spent as much time as I could exercising my clothing optional rights in the pool, sauna and hot tubs, as well as using all of the bodywork sessions that came with the sabbatical - I got reiki, watsu, lomi lomi, shiatsu. 

I left Kalani glowing, with several friendships that continue to deepen and grow me.

Gratitude abounds. Now I am recommending it to other friends who need to regenerate.

Why did I come to Kalani? by Brenda Surtees 


People choose to Volunteer at Kalani for a variety of reasons. Some come for the promise of a new experience, or for an extended stay in Hawaii. Others come for Kalani's Yoga and Workshops, or simply for a break from their day-to-day lives.

Brenda came for healing after a major life crisis and, like so many volunteers before her, she left transformed.

Read more about her inspirational journey below.

* * *

Breaking Point

A few months before coming to Kalani, I experienced 'THE' major crisis of my life.

One minute everything was going along smoothly, and the next everything around me was falling apart: partner relationships, housing, finance, and my career. Everything.

Finding myself very suddenly at a major crossroads and utterly desperate for inspiration, I had no idea where to go. I only knew that I wanted to regain my self-respect, self-confidence and the love for life I once had.

As I processed the feelings of shock and confusion, a gentle guidance to visit Hawaii emerged. I had fond memories of visiting the islands many years ago, of the Hawaiian people, their hospitality, and how happy, graceful, and at peace they were in life. I felt (and hoped beyond hope) that they might help me find peace in my life too.

A Google search lead me to Kalani's website, and I remember being amazed at the pictures I saw of Kalani's volunteers: everyone was beaming with love. I thought, "I have to go there and see if this is for real..."

Months later I arrived and I knew that I had found paradise.

Everyone was so friendly and happy, and people introduced themselves with a hug. Just like on the website, each person's face was beaming with love! There was a magical energy there, in the air, in the earth, in the community, that could not be put into words. Silently I thought to myself, "Yes, it really is for real!"

Life at Kalani

During my three-month stay I volunteered in the Housekeeping department. One of the daily highlights was when we all stopped work at 9:00am to gather around while the shift leader inspired us with animal cards, a game, an exercise, a meditation or a piece of music. That was great, as it centered us all and prepared us for a hard day's work.

Monday morning meetings were another highlight for me. Everyone would meet up and learn what was happening at Kalani that week, new volunteers were introduced, departing volunteers were given a group farewell, and at the end of the meeting we all stood up, held hands and sang a Hawaiian chant together. It certainly helped us feel like one big 'Ohana (family).

In my time off I enjoyed so many awesome adventures, from swimming in between two giant turtles, to sitting silently in a pitch black lava tube with 12 of my 'ohana and experiencing the spirit of the land.

I learned to be spontaneous and open up to new experiences; one minute I would be waiting to attend a meeting, and the next I'd be off on a staff trip to Green Sands Beach! Or I'd be saying goodnight to a friend, when suddenly we both hopped into the back of a passenger van to watch shooting stars from Coconut Beach! It was a huge lesson for someone who had NEVER been spontaneous in her life!

From Transformational Breathwork, to Aerial Basics, Trance Dance, Ecstatic Dance, Yoga, and Hula, the weekly classes at Kalani were fantastically awesome and life changing! My favorite class was Huna Healing, as we always left feeling so positive.

Ohana nights, organized just for volunteers, were so much fun. From Disco Dancing, to making Vision Boards to Manifestation workshops! So Good! Women's Circle nights were beautiful and an honor to attend.

Heading Home

There is an indescribable powerful force at Kalani. Its energy seems to fluctuate with the energy of Pele (the volcano Goddess). Emotions can be so intense at times, as many people are going through life transformations. This can be challenging, but challenges are opportunities to grow and look within. Challenges can lead us to where we want to go (directly or indirectly). But everyone at Kalani is very supportive, very loving, and very understanding. They always make time for you and give you space when you need it. Because of this, people learn to be themselves at Kalani.

Now that I'm back in the United Kingdom, I'm grateful for 'THE' major crisis in my life. It was a blessing, because without it I would never have experienced Kalani.

As they say, there is no predicament that can't be turned into an advantage and no burden that cannot give you wings. I must thank Kalani for helping me to find joy in life again, for helping me to love myself and to feel loved.
 
Kalani gave me wings, freedom to be me, and showed me unconditional love.
 
I learned at Kalani that you are meant to have an amazing life. You can change anything in your life by changing the way you feel. Circumstances don't define the quality of your life, your response to them does.  When you change how you feel about any subject, the subject must change. What you think about, you bring about. Life is your call!
 
I've now returned home with the power to live in the moment. I am Grateful! I have a great job, great relationships, fabulous finance, and fantastic friends and, of course, many new friends - the beautiful souls whom I had the honor to meet at Kalani, and who I look forward to seeing upon my return.
 
If you're reading this blog because you're considering a visit to Kalani, go on and take the plunge! Come and experience this beautiful place on Hawaii's Big Island.

Whether you're a guest or a volunteer, there are amazing experiences waiting for you!
 

The Kalani Effect - A Volunteer's Transformational Journey by Tina Eastoe 

Tina during her volunteer stay at Kalani

If you are reading this you may be thinking about coming to Kalani as a volunteer.

The search for ‘something’ (maybe you're not exactly sure what yet) has brought you to this website, and now you're curious about this place called 'Kalani' on the Big Island of Hawaii.

That’s how it happened to me, anyway. As I sat reading through other blog posts six months ago, my heart beat a little faster. Why? Because each post provided a glimpse of what life was like at this special place, and what I heard resonated deep inside. I wanted what I was reading about. My soul needed it, and I'm guessing that yours might too.

For this reason I want to share a little about my own experience at Kalani in the hope that it will encourage you to have your own personal experience with, what I call, 'The Kalani Effect'.

As soon as I arrived I could tell that my time at Kalani would be life-changing.

The Big Island, with its lush jungle, volcano, powerful ocean and endless canopy of stars in the night sky couldn’t have been more different from my life in a small English town, a 'nine to five' office job, and live-for-the-weekend lifestyle.

Tina at The PointDuring my stay at Kalani I danced, laughed and laughed, ate well and tried all sorts of different classes, diving into everything that was on offer. I can't tell you how good it felt to be interested in new things again.

I swam in the pool almost every day, wove bracelets that I’ll keep forever, watched moonlight on the waves, smelled the most wonderful fragrances from flowers in the night air, helped make a community drum, sketched and painted, dressed up, had blissful massages, swam with sea turtles and colourful fish, made amazing friendships, had one of the most memorable birthdays ever in my 37 years, opened my heart, remembered what it was like to experience joy every day, and more and more and more…

Oh, I also cleaned some bathrooms and made quite a lot of beds! But even during my volunteer work hours at Kalani, there was still time to think, to reflect and to listen to myself.

One of the best bits about this place (because there are many best bits) is the people. The fellow volunteers and staff are fun, loving, supportive, mindful, interesting, entertaining, engaging and most of all being themselves. And they stay in your heart even once you’ve left.

Not a single day passed when I didn’t at some point think "I can’t believe I’m in Hawaii, I’m so lucky!"

And once I departed, my life was suddenly full of possibilities again. I was more confident that I could create the life I wanted rather than reacting to life around me. I was happier. I felt excited again.

Three months on, that same feeling of confidence and happiness - 'The Kalani Effect' - is still strong within me. My stay at Kalani has changed my life permanently.

So, if you do come to Kalani, at the very least you’ll have fun and catch some sun, and at the very best it will be a life-enhancing and life loving experience!

Kalani is a place where you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so do whatever you need to do make your visit happen. If that means saving money, arranging vacation time, or taking care of other practical details, do it. If it means facing some fears and anxieties, so be it. Once you get to Kalani you’ll realise you don't need to hang onto fear and anxiety anymore. You'll have the time and space you need to get to know yourself. You'll learn to create and live the life you've always wanted for yourself.

In the end, my own experience of living and volunteering with this community – the Kalani 'ohana (family) – was truly more than I could have hoped for.

I hope you too will take the leap and honor whatever it is that is calling you to go.

Fireworks at Kalani by Chris Roufs

Fireworks at Kalani

Every Monday a Kalani 'Ohana member is invited to inspire those present at our weekly community meeting with a speech, poem, song, quote, meditation or anything else of their choice.

Resident volunteer and filmmaker Chris Roufs shared an inspiration and ensuing video project so spectacular that we couldn't wait to put it on the Kalani blog.

Read the speech Chris gave to us about finding his inner firework at Kalani, and scroll down to view his video at the end of this post.

***
FIREWORKS AT KALANI

You don’t have to feel like a waste of space,
You’re original, cannot be replaced.
If you only knew what the future holds,
After a hurricane, comes a rainbow.

Maybe your reason why all the doors are closed,
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road.
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will blow
And when it’s time you’ll know.

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine.
Just own the night like the Fourth of July.

Cause baby you’re a firework!
Come on show em what you’re worth!
Make em go, oh, oh, oh.
As you shoot across the sky-y-y!


If you haven’t already figured it out, these are lyrics from a Katy Perry song called 'Firework'.

I had heard this song many times before I came to Kalani this time (my third visit as a volunteer), but I had never really listened to the lyrics very closely.

When I arrived at Kalani again and life slowed down (as it always does when I’m here)  the song’s lyrics were pointed out to me by one of my 'Ohana. I took the time to realize that they had some deeper meaning.

That’s one thing I think is so wonderful about this place.  Being here slows things down.  Knowing that you are a part of this 'Ohana and feeling love and the beauty of nature all around you, allows you the opportunity to go a bit deeper within yourself. To discover your Firework, so to speak.

Shortly after I arrived back home this time I went to Open Mic and I saw the plethora of talents here at Kalani. I remember thinking to myself, “I wish I had something to offer.”  I wanted to get up and sing a song, or play an instrument, or recite some poetry, but that didn’t really feel right.  Just thinking about it seemed forced.  It felt wrong for some reason.

It was shortly after this that I heard Katy’s song again… and I really took the time to listen to the lyrics and then (like Katy sings)… something started to ignite inside.   But I also realized that I didn’t need to DO anything to be special or be appreciated, all I needed to do was to search for that Firework in me, that Firework in all of us.

The ONLY thing any of us ever have to BE is ourselves.  To try and find that DEEPEST PUREST sense of SELF, the part of us that is PERFECT, with no EGO, no JUDGEMENT, no preconceived BELIEFS.  That part of us that is pure JOY!

So one morning while walking toward Kehena beach, with Katy’s song stuck in my head, I turned to two of my 'Ohana and said, "I think I’m gonna make a video to a Katy Perry song."  I was going to do it so that everyone could show off their firework, their joy.  And I wanted people outside of this place to see how Kalani helps to bring that joy out in each member of its 'Ohana!

I’ve always heard that when you find a project or an idea that you truly believe in, the work you do in order to complete that task feels effortless, that time means nothing while working on something that you love, and that you fall into a kind of zone.  That is what this video project was like for me.  I think I briefly tapped into my Firework, my pure joy.  And I’m ever so grateful to all of my 'Ohana (especially Janice, Stephen and Alissa) for helping me to experience that.

For those of you reading and watching this that have never been to Kalani, I hope you catch a glimpse of the JOY that you too can hopefully find here.  I hope you make the journey very soon, and I hope I get to meet you here in paradise.

Mahalo Nui Loa 'Ohana!  May this little video always make you smile and warm your heart as it does mine.

Chris Roufs

Embracing Hawaiian Culture by Thomas Tunsch

Thomas TunschWhen I drove down the highway towards Kalapana on September 6th, it was not the first time that I looked forward to spending a vacation in Kalani. But this time was different, and that became clear as soon as I spotted the plume of Puhio-o-kalaikini where Pele is fighting with her sister Nāmaka. Never before, since my first visit to Puna in 1993, was the ocean entry of a lava flow so close to Kalapana, and it made me wonder what surprises I could expect during the next month.

While entering the Red Road I felt like I was coming home. At the same time I saw the differences: there were only a few Lehua blossoms to spot. Well, my last visit in 2006 was during the Merry Monarch Festival, and I had been told already that the islands had been suffering from a serious drought for a long time. But soon I reached Kehena where the dark green tunnel over the road covered the signs of water shortage. Then I was surprised, because Hale Aloha right at the ocean front of Kalani wasn't there 4 years ago. How would the larger Kalani be different from the smaller community that I had experienced during several visits as a guest since 1998?

Soon I would know, because this time I would be a “Sabbatical Volunteer” – volunteering for two days every week and enjoying all the guests’ amenities for the remaining days. But even as a guest I would have the privileges like a regular volunteer with free classes and the choice to spend my time with other guests or in the ʻohana. Checking in at the “Guest Services” brought me back into the relaxed atmosphere of the place again – the friendly welcome, familiar faces and voices, and I'd live at “Ocean Vista” in the house which I knew from my last stay in 2006 already.

The following days were filled with friendly “welcome back” memories, introducing myself to new volunteers and the soothing rhythm of life between sunrise and sunset. My idea to work on Wednesdays and Thursdays was accepted by Barcus, the manager of the agriculture department, and so the next Wednesday I started my volunteer work. After breakfast I joined my soon-to-be coworkers on the truck to the nursery where we started with a short meeting. I introduced myself to the others, and was welcomed by the small crew of the day. I learned that my choice of working Wednesdays and Thursdays would be perfect, because these days are reserved for projects mostly.

During the four weeks I stayed in Kalani we worked on a new path for guests and staff along the road. For me this project evolved into a very satisfying experience. Combined with the botanical tour given by Barcus, I learned a lot about the plants on the property and their traditional use by Hawaiians. Joining the Lauhala weaving classes with Lynda Tuʻa and the Hula classes with Jonathan Kaleikaukeha Lopez every Tuesday completed my adventures in Hawaiian culture and nature in a beautiful way.

Thomas and agriculture crewAll these wonderful classes and the work in the agriculture department were also connected by the inspiring teachers as well as the tradition in Kalani to start every activity with the “E ho mai” chant written by Edith Kanakaʻole. When I look back on the year 2010 now, these four weeks as a sabbatical volunteer in Kalani were not only a cultural and educational experience, but nurturing for body and soul at the same time.

I'm very grateful for the time that I could spend with the wonderful people in Kalani and for their affection. And therefore stronger then during my earlier visits I felt the prophetic meaning of the Hawaiian farewell “a hui hou” – until we meet again.

Some friendly Kalani advice from a departing volunteer to a newbie by Chris Roufs

  1. swing!Push through the first few days. Your body and mind are not used to the pace, peace and beauty of this place, or the kindness and love of your new ohana. (Your soul is, that is why you came. It felt a calling.)

  2. At first don’t sit in the middle of a table at meals. It’s difficult because you feel torn between two conversations. Aim for the end seat, it’s much better. Listen to the flow of the conversation and join in when you feel like it.

  3. Smile at people and introduce yourself. Don’t worry about names. Ask again if you can’t remember. No one will be offended and the names will come faster than you think.

  4. Be kind and talkative with your new roommate. If you are lucky, you’ll find an amazing new friend who you can share your experience with.

  5. If you work in the kitchen, serve the food as much as you can in the beginning and get to know the faces of your fellow ohana. Watch the joy in their faces when you serve something that they love! When you’re up for a new challenge, become one with the Hobart Dishwashing machine!

  6. Keep an eye on the Free Box – you’ll find some pretty amazing things!

  7. Do YOGA! If you haven’t done yoga before, start slowly and tell the teacher that you’re new. When they ask if everyone is familiar with something, don’t say yes because you’re embarrassed. Learn the right techniques and sooner than you know it you’ll be doing poses you didn’t think were possible at the start.

  8. Go to Restorative Yoga on Saturday mornings with Kathy. Find relaxation and inspiration and then go out and seek the color RED!

  9. Keep a journal, and write in it EVERY day! Not only will you have a great memory, but it will help you work through and process things.

  10. Ask yourself questions. You have the time and are in a loving space in which to do so. Why did that upset me? What is it about that person that bothers me and WHY? And you’ll almost always find that it’s NEVER about them! It’s about YOU!!!

  11. Take deep breaths all the time.

  12. Enjoy the pool – in the sunshine, in the rain, under the stars - in your birthday suit!

  13. Go to The Point whenever you feel you need a recharge. Marvel at the ocean’s beauty and power. Find the tree swing and watch for Honu (Sea Turtles) to pop up for air – polarized sun glasses help a lot! Watch for whales and dolphins – a surprising treat! And if someone says they’ve never seen a turtle from the swing, take them down and share the experience with them.

  14. Make friends that will last a lifetime.

  15. Go to Ning’s for Thai in Pahoa! Do Happy hour in Pahoa Village Café or Luquin’s!

  16. Go to Sun Dance and shake your booty!

  17. Put yourself on the A-Frame waiting list and have fun decorating it and making it your own space! Don’t keep food in it and watch out for Gecko Poop and Hornets!

  18. If you can, EXTEND YOUR STAY!!

  19. Rent a car and go on a road trip! Take as many people as you can fit! Find a fun road trip song and play it over and over and over! Laugh and sing, and practice your car dancing skills!

  20. Respect the island and all it has to offer you. Ask for permission and for safe passage from the universe when you go on your adventures. Do magic fingers and say, “Wooooo!” Works every time!

  21. Go visit the following (optional): Kahena Beach, Tide Pools, South Point and Green Sand Beach, Captain Cook and Two-Step, Ho’okena Beach Park, Waipio Valley, Kilauea Iki in Volcano National Park, drive over the Saddle Road.

  22. Go visit the following (mandatory):

    1. The Top of Mauna Kea at Sunset and the Visitor Center for the star show – an amazing experience you’ll remember forever! Bring a jacket.

    2. Pololu Valley – Amazingly beautiful and there are tree swings at the bottom – connect with your childhood self!!

    3. Sunrise at Kalapana! EVERYONE should see the sunrise with its beautiful orange glow.

    4. The Secret Lava Tube at Kalapana (that makes its way to the ocean)! Take someone along who has been before, and don’t let the first few feet of the cave scare you. Like difficult times in your life, take a few deep breaths, let go of any non-essential stuff that is weighing you down, and press forward. Just around the corner is one of the most amazing things you’ll ever see! (And if someone is scared, hold their hand and help them through.) Stand in the large chamber with your traveling companions and turn out your flashlights. Marvel at the darkness and the quiet and meditate for a while. Move forward and literally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Do the limbo to get to the ocean and when you do, celebrate the beauty of this magical place by taking beautiful pictures in silhouette. Show off your Yoga or Meditation Poses. Carefully venture to the very edge of the cave and if you’re lucky you’ll see lava hitting the ocean off in the distance.

  23. Practice the art of the self-photo (on your own or with friends).

  24. Publish photos of your adventures on the internet so others can see how wonderful this place is and maybe make the journey themselves someday.

  25. If you meet someone new in your life shortly before your meant to leave for Kalani, go anyway. If that person loves you and the universe wants things to work out, they’ll still be there when you get back and you’ll be that much more at peace with yourself to start a new life adventure or journey with them.

  26. Maybe get a tattoo to permanently remind you of what you experienced and learned here. It’s meant to remind you of a special time in your life. How could you regret it?

  27. Be sad when it’s time to leave (don’t hold back on the tears if and when they come), but also be joyous at what you’ve experienced.

  28. Tell yourself that you’ll be back someday and manifest it, make it happen.

  29. Bring the Spirit of Aloha back with you to your life outside of Kalani. And if you feel its power slipping away from you, take a moment, close your eyes and journey back here. Find that special place that you found for yourself (be it The Point, The Swing, The Pool, The Lanai…). Say hello to those special people you met, your ohana. Feel the love that you have for them, and they for you, the universal energy that connects us all. Then open your eyes and greet the present moment (which is all we have) with a smile and with love in your heart!

Yet another perfect day in paradise, one of wonderment by Marilyn Hammill

Marilyn HammillEveryday at Kalani (ka lani, heaven) on the Big Island of Hawai’i is perfect, but some days are more perfect than others and today is one such day.

Saturday and the second day of the new year and a new decade started out as usual; always a good day for revitalizing mind, body and spirit. My day begins with Wuji gong (chi gung) for an hour, which finishes with free form movement - following one’s own chi; always powerful for me. After a quick half hour breakfast comes restorative yoga, which takes away all the aches and stiffness from my weekly work shifts in the kitchen; this week more wearying than usual with New Year’s Eve taking the majority of staff leaving us short staffed for the two morning shifts either side. This left me spent and drained of energy, so there was a lot of restoring to do. There was a bigger difference to this Saturday in store for me today.

Ten minutes into the Restorative Yoga class, I heard what sounded like whale song; listening more closely it sounded like a circular or chain saw. December sees the return of the whales around the islands when they seek warmer climes after Alaska, where they feed. They come here to breed and frolic. There have been many sighting in the past few weeks.

Although the sound I was hearing was not whale song, I took it as a message that the whales were waiting for me. I had not yet sited whales in Hawai’i and I had a strong urge to leave the class after 10 minutes, but stayed the two hours because my body needed it. Then unquestioning I walked to The Point a short distance away. First I saw some small charcoal grey crabs scurrying about on the rocks below. They wore perfect camouflage, blending in perfectly with the smooth rocks; their movement caught my eye. Initially I thought I might climb down to watch them, good sense prevailed when I realized that I probably would not be able to climb back up. The Point is a rocky cliff.

Returning to my purpose, I made my way to sit on the bench and gaze out at the sea to whale watch and immediately saw what looked like an upturned boat with the bottom just surfacing the water not far from the shoreline. I felt troubled and looked closely to make out exactly what it was, looking for other debris. To my surprise, even though they had called me, I saw two noses surface, spouts from blow holes and then a tail twice coming out of the water. What I thought was a boat had been the back of a whale. How exciting to spot my first whales; yet, there was more to come.

After restorative yoga I feel completely relaxed and at peace, so I was in the perfect frame of mind to sit and watch for a long spell. Now I knew what to look for, so I scanned the surface of the water in different directions and spotted them again far off near the horizon, spouting and flashing their tails. I noticed that the surface of the water tended to be disturbed when the whales were in a particular area and then changed when they moved on. Other areas looked disturbed more permanently and these were indications of rocks just below the surface. So a gazed out to sea with this in mind studying the movements of the water. I have come to accept my ‘knowings’ when they occur and these come more frequently here; one came that said ‘Third time lucky’ (an English expression) – wait and you will see them breach. This is a far less common sight, what I had seen so far being more typical.

After sitting awhile more without any activity, I stood up to get a better vantage point to look along the shoreline to the left. It was difficult to see in this direction from the bench. A palm tree stands on the edge with a trunk the bends out towards the ocean. This made a perfect leaning post for my body with my arm wrapped around it – so cozy. Now I can clearly see a group of whales close to the shore further down spouting away through their blowholes. One breaches, then two together, then another and another, while a gazed on in perfect wonder, gasping with choked sighs of WOW, WOW, WOW and again WOW; the tears nearly falling from my eyes – yet not quite, it would blur my vision. The soft grateful emotional wows were followed by thank yous and mahalos. What a perfect gift for the New Year and the New Decade; a gift from Na-maka-o-ka-hai, Pele's older sister, who belongs to the powers of the sea.

According to the legends: Na-maka-o-ka-hai, a sea-goddess, as a result of family trouble, became Pele's most bitter enemy, fighting her with floods of water. Thus the original household represented the two eternal enemies, fire and water. Some say that the two sisters, Pele of the fire and Na-maka-o-ka-hai of the sea have now made peace with each other.

I walk in a dream for the rest of the day feeling in awe, truly an awesome sight; that word is far too overused, when to be in awe is not commonplace. I am perfectly blessed on this most perfect of all perfect days.

Mahalo nui loa, Na-maka-o-ka-hai

Marilyn Hammill (Volunteer & Kalani Mauka Steward)

Stitch's Advice by Stitch H. Lerios

Stitch's SunsetIt's not often that a canine volunteer gets to come to Kalani, what with the strict quarantine laws of Hawaii and Kalani's "no dog" policy. But my parents, Toli and Christine, insisted that my assistance was required in the IT department, and I soon found myself in paradise.

After my wonderful 3 month stay at Kalani, I was asked to share my thoughts, so I thought it would be helpful to share some advice for incoming volunteers, human and otherwise.

1. Make new friends

I really learned all about "aloha" here and enjoyed making friends everywhere I went. There is such a diverse group of people who work and visit Kalani, and I made sure to greet as many of them as I could with a wagging tail and a friendly heart. The hardest thing about leaving Kalani was leaving behind all of my wonderful new friends.

2. Break out of your comfort zone

Even though I am great with humans large and small, I have always felt shy and awkward around my fellow dogs. Lucky for me, Kalani's resident dogs Po and Kobo were very patient and encouraging until I grew more comfortable around them. Toli and Christine were very happy one day when I started playing and chasing Kobo on the grass - they had never seen me play so well with another dog before! Hopefully now I can play better with dogs I meet on the mainland.

3. Be helpful

Kalani is a big place that needs a lot of people and energy to keep it running. Even though I was officially part of the IT team, I always lent a helping paw whenever it was needed. I protected the office from noisy lawnmowers, hunted rats that lurked in corners, and gave fertilizer to help the jungle grow.

4. Stay active and try something new

I don't get outdoors a lot in Texas because of the coyotes, so I took advantage of all the outdoor time I got in Hawaii. I also made friends with a nice lady from the Priya Yoga group who would bring me to attend yoga sessions with her. If you have never tried yoga, Kalani is a great place to start. I think I really improved my downward dog.

5. Don't forget to explore the rest of Hawaii

With a 30-hour a week work commitment, that leaves plenty of time to explore the rest of Hawaii during your time off. I got to visit Hilo, Waimea, and Kona on the Big Island, and my family flew to Maui on our week off. Maui was great because they allow dogs on the beaches.

6. Don't eat the cane toads

I know that it can be really tempting to chase and eat the cane toads that come out when it rains, but DON'T! I learned the hard way that these toads have toxic glands and taste really yucky. No one likes to visit the vet while they're on vacation.

I hope you found my advice helpful and that you come to Kalani soon. Woof!

Welcome to Kalani by Reid Manchester

It changes you.

Build your walls as high as you want. Make them 6 feet thick. Use the hardest stone. Eventually your walls will be worn down.

Sure, you can fight it. Hold people at arms length, cling to your bad habits, defence mechanisms, wit, charm, sarcasm, humor, fear. Hide behind shyness, a quiet disposition, 9 thin layers or three thick ones. It doesn’t matter.

You’ll start to care about people. Eventually. Because they care about you.

DriftwoodYou’ll stop seeing faults and start seeing strengths. You’ll stop criticizing and start encouraging. You’ll BE one of those strange people that walks around hugging people you just saw an hour ago. Give it enough time and you’ll hug strangers, regardless of their asinine concept of personal space.

Those notions you have about gender and sexual preference will fade. Soon it won’t matter. Soon you won’t care what they’re wearing, or if they’re wearing anything at all.

All that fear you’ve lived with your whole life? Fears about who you are, what you do, how you do it, what you look like, what others think, what your life means. Don’t worry, that blanket of fear will unravel. You’ll be free of it soon.

Welcome to Kalani.