"If I had to choose one word to sum up why I love Family Hui Hawaii, it would be connection. In a world where everything has become distant and impersonal, parenting is not immune. The curriculum is fantastic and very much needed, but the connection is what makes this program invaluable. I learned a lot, but I also gained friends and community I was desperately searching for. This program is unique to all of my other resources because not only was I provided reading material but also the opportunity to connect, in person, with other parents going through the same trials at almost the same time. That made so much of a difference in my experience. We learned, laughed, admitted our mistakes, asked for advice and experienced the ups and downs together."
- Karen Doyle, Miliani Infant Group Leader
After hearing testimonials like this, choosing Family Hui Hawaii as the beneficiary for our giving program in Q2 was an easy choice.
Family Hui Hawaii builds on the strong foundation of the former Hawai'i-based Baby Hui organization, which successfully organized community-based positive parenting groups to address the issues of parenting young children since 1982. Family Hui is the only program in Hawai'i to offer this unique programming of parent education and peer support for families of young children.
We sat down with the organization to learn a little more about what they do and why they're so passionate about it...
Q: The mission of your organization is: to develop sound families, thriving communities, and a more peaceful world. Why is Family Hui so passionate about this mission?
A: At our heart, we want to see all keiki happy and healthy and their families thriving so that our communities do the same and it ripples out into the larger world. We know that parents and caregivers who are supported by a Hui (group of friends) and who are given a solid foundation in child development are more resilient to meet the challenges of raising children in today’s stressful world.
Q: What can a parent expect of participating in Family Hui’s peer-led programs?
A: To engage with other parents in their neighborhood/area that have keiki of a similar age on a regular basis. Parents bond, keiki play, everyone socializes and an ‘ohana is created. It’s not just about finding a tribe or a village for support, it becomes a basis for friendships for both parents and children that often last a lifetime. We have Hui that run all over the islands.
Q: What is a typical session like for parents and their children?
A: A typical meet up lasts 1.5 hours, once a week for 10-12 weeks. Parents and their children meet in places of their choosing, in their neighborhoods: a home, a community center, a beach park, a botanical garden, a playground, so transportation is not a barrier and Hui is convenient for schedules. A trained volunteer parent chooses the time and day and facilitates the discussion of 10 specific topics that are applicable for developing your own parenting strategies/styles. Hui in Bloom, for expectant mothers, is a 4-6-week program. While our curriculum is evidence-based and constantly updated, it is the environment of “talking story” that makes Hui stand out. No participant is an expert, we’re all learning together and the keiki are doing their job too: playing.
Q: Are there any criteria to qualify for your program?
A: The only thing needed to participate is to have a child/children aged 0-5 years. To lead a Hui, there is a very casual 2-hour training that covers communication techniques to ease facilitating.
Q: What are some lessons that you teach in your program that you could share with parents in our community?
A: We cover: expectations of parenting; parenting in stressful situations like crying, sleeping, tantrums; healthy nutrition; physical, social and emotional development; mindful parenting; learning through play and language; parenting in the age of media; health, wellness and safety concerns; family life; developing a love for learning. Our first session stresses the importance of self-care (you have to put your oxygen mask on first) and while the topics discussed are carefully crafted, the lessons really come from the dynamic of the group and their specific concerns at that time.
Q: What is the feedback like of those who have participated in your programs?
The common thread from feedback from almost all our families is that they developed deep friendships and a sense of intimate community that has gotten them through difficult times. At the same time, they note that they share the joys and special moments of raising an infant, a toddler, a preschooler with their Hui, especially in the absence of other family or friends. Parents tell us Hui saved their sanity, made them feel less alone and that Hui continues to make them the best parents they can be. Caregivers say they’ve found a place to just be and learn together.
The program worked. Homeless mommies paired up with other mommies, they started a home school together and found a place to live. Other moms ended up with good friends, and they have been very appreciative and kind. I see a difference in the community. As a Hui leader, I was so well rewarded. I have been even more pleased to hear through time how many connections came through my Hui. Some moms found housing, some found resources and others found friends. I found a purpose. Being a Hui leader really allowed me to get to know myself better and the magic in community.
- Jessica Flaherty, Upcountry Maui Sibling Group Leader
Q: How many families have you served to date?
A: Every year it grows exponentially but we average about 300 neighborhood Hui families a year. With our other programs like Hui at Preschool, Hui in the Workplace, and partnering with HCAP, Family Court, the YMCA Come with Me, and the Hawaii Children’s Action Network, in addition to our free monthly playdays, workshops and/or wellness fairs where we administer developmental questionnaires, we touch the lives of 1000's annually.
Q: How can someone donate to your organization or otherwise get involved?
A: You can visit our website www.familyhuihawaii.org and donate directly, or LIKE or FOLLOW our very active Facebook page, which lists all upcoming and current Hui so you can Join a Hui today or join any of our activities – starting this week, it’s a Summer Fun program at the libraries with space ship crafts and concerts by Uncle Wayne and the Howling Dog Band. And finally and most importantly, especially if you’ve been waiting for a Hui to start, volunteer to be trained as a group leader. It easy and fun.
Being a stay at home mom can be so lonely at times. Hui has made all the difference! I joined a Hui for each of my two children. I’m so thankful for the friendships that I’ve made through these Huis. I still communicate daily with many of the other moms. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
- Vanessa Zachariah, Hawaii Kai Toddler Hui