Clyson Marquez (Native Hawaiian), 19, Hawi, Hawaii, is pursuing his dream with his mentor organization, Kohala Unupa’a, to create a nursery for Native Hawaiian plants through his Ka Lei Ke’ia ‘Aina Loha or “Lei from this loving land” Dreamstarter project.
Clyson is creating a place where people can come to pick plants for lei-making and other uses including reforestation, coastal preservation, la’au lapaau (herbal medicine) “because native Hawaiian plants have the ability to heal you.
“My dream is to bring back Native Hawaiian plants, to collect plants that are growing in places where cars cannot go by riding horses and exploring more land, seeing places that we never get to see and restoring trails.”
His mentor, Amoo Kainoa, Kohala Unupa’a project director, reported in October that “the plants are, and the land are very healthy. The plants have grown from one foot to now at least three-feet-tall.”
“We have eight Ohia plants (a species of flowering evergreen trees in the myrtle family that is endemic to the six largest islands of Hawaii) that sprouted new shoots. A total of 65 plants are growing in the nursery – the land is so happy, and so are the weeds.”
Clyson used some of his $10,000 Dreamstarter grant funding to purchase an electric fence system “to keep the pigs from coming in and uprooting our nursery.”
Each week, students from Kohala Unupa’a, an after-school program which instructs children and youth how to be grounded in Hawaiian culture, to weed and care for the plants.
“The land is telling us ‘Thank you’ every day,” says Amoo. “We see the health of the area and the students to be in such a happy and healthy state.”
Clyson, who is now off to college in Colorado, has given the kuleana (responsibility) to Kenneth (whose father works for the biggest nursery in Kohala) to care for the nursery in his absence who has taken on the project as his own, says Amoo.
“The students of Kohala Unupa’a have taken on Clyson’s Dreamstarter project as theirs. They work very hard to keep the area clean and the plants taken care of.
“The parents are happy that we have this project for their children to learn about caring for plants and the health of the land,” she noted. “The one main they always express is instilling work ethics into their children.
“We have been having a lot of rain which is good for the land and plants, but the weeds grow nice and healthy too. We will be able to make a lei from the plants that are growing, and it will be the first from our nursery, We are so thankful and blessed.
“Kohala Elementary School Complex is very happy to have a Native Hawaiian plant nursery so close to the school,” she added. “Students have been taking walking excursions to visit and learn from Clyson’s Dreamstarter project.
“We are so thankful that Running Strong has funded this project. It is vital to our Hawaiian culture and the Health and Wellness of our people. Mahalo Nui Loa (Thank you so very much) for investing in our children.”