• Boys & Girls Club of the Big Island - Meeting a Need

    November 05, 2021
    BY LAURA RUMINSKI
    WEST HAWAII TODAY
    lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com

    The Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island has added a new afterschool program in South Kona at the Kona Hongwanji Mission, increasing its reach to five sites in West Hawaii with plans for a sixth.

    The nonprofit Boys and Girls Club of the Big Island (BGCBI) opened its first West Hawaii program in 2017 at Kealakehe Elementary School. Since then, operations have expanded to five locations serving Kahakai Elementary School, Ulu Wini, South Kona and Ocean View. Soon, BGCBI will open an afterschool program at Kealakehe Intermediate School.

    “As we settle back into some normalcy within our communities, BGCBI has seen a huge need for after school care in South Kona,” said CEO Chad Cabral.

    Child Care Aware estimates 9% of licensed child care programs have permanently closed since the pandemic began, based on its tally of nearly 16,000 shuttered centers and in-home day cares in 37 states between December 2019 and March 2021.

    On Oct. 18, BGCBI opened its new Monday-Friday after school youth development program, just one mile from Konawaena middle and elementary schools. Transportation is provided from the school to the site.

    Cabral said many in the community are not aware of the services provided on the west side.

    “Many of our West Hawaii families are moving to Ocean View because of the affordability of housing,” said Cabral. “We are really strategic in wanting to help the kids and families that need us the most.”

    He said they have waived the $10 sign up fee for West Hawaii.

    “I noticed some families were struggling to look through coins to try to get the money. So we decided, if you can’t pay that, don’t worry about it,” he said.

    All programs are free and provide transportation, child care, hot meal, youth development activities and homework assistance. BGCBI is primarily funded through a diverse range of support from government, local businesses, private foundations and donations from community individuals.
    “We know our kids struggling to find resources are not just going to school for academics, they are going to school to eat,” he said. “When schools were out because of the pandemic, they were missing breakfast and lunch meals, and that’s why we started our community support meals. In just a little over a year they hit 275,000 meals provided throughout Hawaii Island to support families the most struggling and having a hard time finding resources throughout the pandemic.”

    As schools started to reopen, they transitioned to after school programs.

    Cabral said they serve about 100 keiki at each West Hawaii location.

    Since the program opened in South Kona, the nonprofit is seeing more and more participants coming to the afterschool program.

    “We do have spaces available at South Kona. We pick up the kids at Konawaena and bring them to Hongwanji. We provide after school care until about 5:30, free child care for parents that need to work those extra hours so they can provide for their families,” he said. “For working families, the huge barrier in making it month-to-month is childcare.”

    Cabral said the nonprofit is targeting families struggling to find resources who cannot afford the often high cost of DOE sponsored A Plus afterschool care, which can top $200 a month in Kona.

    “We are here for families who are working hourly jobs who cannot leave work to pick up their kids from school and we are providing that absolutely needed childcare that’s going to have a positive impact on not only the child but the entire family,” said Cabral.

    Cabral said in many instances, grandparents are taking care of their mo‘opuna (grandchildren) after school.

    “What we hear from grandma or grandpa is ‘thank you Boys and Girls Club because the homework that they are bringing home, I have a hard time doing it with them,’” he said. “Our kupuna love us because we are able to provide the help with homework and tutoring needed.”

    For more information or to donate visit https://www.bgcbi.org/ or call (808) 961-5536.
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