Just last year, Four Seasons Lana’i at Manele Bay and The Lodge at Koele began several exciting voluntourism opportunities for guests, each embracing the spirit of aloha and giving back to the community. The programs combine family fun with some light-hearted education about Hawaiian culture, sustainability and the importance of volunteering. Of all the voluntourism options on Lana’i, the Kokua Project is perhaps the most compelling.
Kathy and Mike Carroll moved to Lana’i more than 10 years ago from Chicago to live a simpler, happier life. They own and operate a gallery showcasing Mike’s art in the center of town and are extremely active in the civic life of the island. But Kathy wasn’t content with just that. As a strong supporter of animals, she soon recognized a need on the island that was sorely lacking: an animal rescue center.
After tremendous research, persuasion of local residents and hard work, Kathy—along with an army of supporters and volunteers—created the Lana’i Animal Rescue Center (LARC). The centerpiece of the group’s efforts is one of the most interesting and ingenious rescue facilities I have ever seen—the cat sanctuary. In 2011, Four Seasons Lana’i recognized the importance of this program and teamed up with Kathy to start a new voluntourism program for guests called the Kokua Project.
As a pet owner myself, whenever I am away from my fur-babies, I miss them terribly and usually seek out any animal I can find for that much-needed interaction. My time at the sanctuary filled that need and while I selfishly loved it, the interaction also helped the felines.
The cat sanctuary is designed to provide comfort and safety to its occupants, more than 250 of them, and was built in consultation with veterinarians from neighboring islands. The sanctuary is completely open-air, its boundaries marked with a special fencing to keep the cats in and everything else out.
When we arrived, we were instantly surrounded by dozens of friendly kitties, meowing and seeking attention (kids will love this!). Guests get a lot of opportunities to help out, including cleaning, gardening and the always-popular “Pet and Purr” sessions. Put and Purr is important because the cats learn to socialize and be around people of all ages. When I volunteered, there was an extended family with grandparents and grandkids visiting, all eager to play with the felines. One boy in particular, probably around three years old, gingerly extended his hand for the cats to sniff, giggling each time one got close. I’m sure he’ll always remember that moment—and special memories like those just can’t be planned.
Getting involved with the Kokua Project is easy: all you have to do is ask the front desk at Four Seasons Lanai for more information. The great thing about a voluntourism project involving animals is that almost without exception, the opportunity to interact with something cute and furry brings out the kid in everyone.
In the Hawaiian language, kokua refers to a sense of mutual support, and helping others. The Kokua Project gives guests at Four Seasons a chance to experience the island and its culture by helping out side-by-side with the locals.
While voluntourism isn’t necessarily a unique idea, this particular concept is. As a guest, I loved the fact that I could spend some of my vacation giving back to the local community I had come to love so much.
So, the next time you’re visiting Lana’i, ask the front desk about the resort’s one-of-a-kind voluntourism programs—and be sure to say “hi” to Kathy when you attend your first Pet and Purr session.
A version of this post first appeared on Landlopers.com.
Read more about Lana’i in Four Seasons Magazine.
All photos are courtesy of Matt Long.
Matt Long, travel writer, blogger, photographer and world traveler, is the Editor-in-Chief of Landlopers.com, a top travel blog that caters to the “normal” traveler who wants to get out there and experience the best the world has to offer.
View all posts from Matt
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