Xander Lai ’20, and his mom Alethea are approaching this holiday season a bit differently from years past. "We both turn part elf during December," he explains, "and enjoy everything from making cookies to decorating the house." This year, however, Lai and his mom are turning their elf energy outward toward the wider community. "We both had almost nothing on our Christmas lists," says Lai, "and we both had wanted to work with Project Hawai‘i for a while. Hawai‘i ranks number one in the nation for homeless kids. It's hard to get accurate counts, but we have roughly 350 homeless keiki on our island alone. One hundred of them are teenagers."
Lai and his mom have decided to forego their usual Christmas activities in favor of assisting Project Hawai‘i. "My mom and I are rallying donations," says Lai. "Our goal is to get all 100 teenagers the items they need. Someone has donated 100 backpacks, and our goal is to fill them."
Project Hawai‘i describes the effort as an opportunity for teens not only to celebrate Christmas, but also to develop confidence and budgeting skills. "Christmas … allows them the opportunity to choose things they like, feel empowered, and learn the value and how to budget their money. We take them in small groups after the holiday to various locations of their gift cards and allow them to shop for the afternoon. … The other aspect is to … show them the world around them; the opportunities outside their small tent life. We have seen teens fill out applications of employment while shopping and actually obtain employment. … There are so many benefits to allowing a teen to learn and grow on their own."
As Christmas approaches, Lai hopes to spread this message, "If you would like to support our efforts, please get in touch, make a donation, and we can deliver the gift cards. Or, donations are being accepted at both MacArthur Sotheby's locations on island."
Gift cards from $7 to $40 are needed for clothing, personal hygiene, and meals. For more details, contact Xander at: firstname.lastname@example.org.