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Text: Cultivating Safe Spaces Together

The Mālama Project invites the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa community to learn how to become an ally for someone recovering from substance misuse. The Mālama Kekahi i Kekahi: Recovery Ally Workshop will have four sessions, April 1, 2, 17 and 19. Registration is available online.

The recovery ally training seeks to:

  • Demonstrate that recovery is a long-term process with unique implications for student/individual success.
  • Confront myths and stigma regarding addiction, recovery and healing.
  • Introduce appropriate language related to addiction and recovery.
  • Convey the importance of empathy and openness with students and individuals in recovery.
  • Present the resources UH Mānoa has for students in recovery and how to access those services.

The workshops will be presented by Lilinoe Kauahikaua, the Mālama Project program coordinator and Kuʻulei Salzer-Vitale, alcohol and drug education counselor with the University Health Services Mānoa.

“We hope to make these concepts relatable to all those joining us on this journey, and impart the understanding that it is not ‘us against them,’” said Kauahikaua. “We are all one people on this healing journey. We must work together to create recovery-ready communities and build the foundations. As we do this work, roots will begin to grow without our even realizing it because we are growing that foundation, growing the understanding and the empathy.”

The Mālama Project approaches healing through traditional Hawaiian values. Since fall 2020, the program has offered students one-on-one counseling and weekly peer support through virtual “Talk Story” every Monday at 12 p.m.

The project also offers Moʻolelo Monday on March 29 and April 12 where invited Kumu share moʻolelo (stories) and kaʻao (legends) with students, followed by discussions on how their meanings and lessons can influence and inform their recovery journeys.

Support, empathy and empowerment

While the Mālama Project started in 2016, Kauahikaua has worked to rebuild the program with a culturally grounded perspective toward substance misuse. The approach has resonated with student participants and helped them navigate their recovery.

Mālama Project taught me that recovery is love, and loved me hard until I could do it for myself.
—first Mālama Project graduate

“Recovery comes through the process of learning to love yourself,” shared the first Mālama Project graduate. “I had to learn that self-love. While I was working on developing that, Mālama Project was there with love, time, recognition, physical touch, and validation when I felt I had none of that from the world around me. Mālama Project taught me that recovery is love, and loved me hard until I could do it for myself.”

Beyond their personal recovery, students are empowered to help others as allies.

“By being part of this group, I’ve learned that there exists people who are strong, courageous, resilient, and loving that are so passionate about breaking that negative stigma associated with substance misuse,” shared another Mālama Project student. “As a continuing member, I’m hoping that we can continue to serve as a safe space for people dealing with substance misuse, and inspire others to serve as channels of knowledge and hope.”

Learn more about the Mālama Project and register for events.

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