Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, West Hawaii Today is publishing a story about individuals, groups or organizations that have helped make life better for others in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scores of Waimea Middle School pupils recently received desks of their own thanks to the Waimea community as students continue distance learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Getting the 150 cardboard desks to students began this fall when Waimea Middle School parent and “village” member Noe Wong saw a PBS Hawaii news story about the KeikiDesk project that provides a low cost, practical, comfortable solution for students needing to work online at home where often there isn’t a desk or quiet workspace for every member of the family.
After seeing the piece, Wong did a little digging before getting hold of the school’s principal, Janice English, to tell her about the initiative she thought was a good idea for Waimea students.
“It’s not uncommon for students to have to share study spaces or be close to siblings and others. This can be very distracting,” said English. “We’ve loaned all of our students Chromebooks for distance learning, but it’s not so easy to help them have a desk of their own.”
The KeikiDesk project was initiated by Honolulu resident Trung Lam and his wife, Lianna, working with corrugated solutions designers at Rengo Products Inc. with financial support from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership called INNOVATE Hawaii.
English did some research of her own and confirmed that the desks were safe and appropriately sized for middle school pupils. English then asked the school’s sixth- through eighth-grade teachers to poll students about their interest. Many students responded with a resounding, “Yes, please!”
But how to fund purchase and shipping of a pallet of the heavy cardboard desks from Honolulu to Waimea at a time when school funding is “a sea of red ink”?
Lam reached out to several local businesses and individuals to purchase the desks at $6 each for the school, and then asked friend, Chad Buck, owner of Hawaii Foodservice Alliance LLC, to ship them to Hilo and truck them to Waimea as part of one of his company’s weekly deliveries.
Once the pallet arrived in Hilo, HFA’s Big Island Assistant Branch Manager R.J. Hurtt coordinated delivery by driver Owen Takei to Waimea, and the Waimea Middle School’s custodial team helped unload the desks. After transporting select students taking part in on-campus learning, Waimea Middle School bus driver Aaron Leibner delivered the fabricated desks to the homes of students.
“There are many ways to help our students learn and grow – and become more resilient,” said English. “We are grateful to our ‘village’ — all of the generous helping hands who invented, funded, shipped, constructed and delivered 150 KeikiDesks to enable students to focus better on their virtual lessons.”
Know a Hometown Hero who should be highlighted next Wednesday? It can be anybody, from a youngster doing good for the community, to a professional helping with the COVID-19 pandemic, or even a kupuna! Please send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: Hometown Heroes Nomination. Please include the hero’s name, contact information and what makes them a hero.