Clarence “Boogie” Kahilihiwa, President of Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, and Executive Director Valerie Monson holding a photo of Bernard K. Punikai’a. Photo: Sister Alicia Damien Lau

Aloha from our Previous Executive Director

Valerie Monson

President Boogie Kahilihiwa usually authors this column, but he has kindly given me this space to deeply thank all of you for your friendship, stories and support after 17 years with Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, the last 12 as Coordinator and Executive Director. 

When 70 of us gathered at Kalaupapa in 2003 to establish Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, none of us realized the impact we were going to have. Before Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa, there was not enough emphasis on the people of Kalaupapa as individuals and leaders, no outreach to families and descendants, no concerted effort to build The Kalaupapa Memorial and no educational programs around the islands. Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa changed all that. 

Our ‘Ohana was the idea of Kalaupapa visionary Bernard K. Punikai‘a. Bernard and I often talked about the future of Kalaupapa in person and over the phone. In the mid-1990s, Bernard began stressing how we needed to bring together family members and friends to stand with the people of Kalaupapa to make sure their wishes for the future of Kalaupapa would always drive the decisions.

We didn’t know we were planting the seeds for Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa. I often described myself as “Bernard’s secretary” during those early days of brainstorming. 

Like any organization, Ka ‘Ohana O Kalaupapa has changed over the years. Many of our founding members have died or grown older. A new generation, anchored by descendants of Kalaupapa, has emerged to carry on our mission. 

I could not be happier turning over the reins of our ‘Ohana to Joseph Lapilio. As the great-grandson of Kalaupapa leader Bonepake Lapilio, Joseph will follow in his kupuna’s footsteps. He has the abilities to get our ‘Ohana through the Covid-19 era and ready for the future.

You’ll still see me around. I plan to get back to doing what I love most: writing about Kalaupapa. 

Many of you will always have a special place in my heart and I can’t thank you enough for your kokua in making sure the people of Kalaupapa are forever remembered with pride.

A hui hou. . .

Valerie Monson