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Grass-roots efforts pay off

May 5, 2004

Wailuku - When faced with a problem in the community, the common response is, "Somebody should do something." With many problems, that somebody could be you.

"But what can I do?"

You can first decide if the problem bothers you enough to actually spend some time finding a solution. The second step is to find some help, through a school, a church or recreational group, a community association, or by talking across the back fence to a neighbor.

The process is generally referred to as a grass-roots effort, people helping people to help themselves. The form of the effort is up to you and the problem you want to address.

Such an effort is taking place in Wailuku in the form of the Wailuku Community Action Mobilization Task Force, a mouth-filling name for a group of individuals representing nonprofit organizations, businesses, government and neighborhood groups.

The group began with a set of sterile statistics compiled by the Center on the Family. The stats underlined what everyone knew, or thought they knew. Maui kids as young as 6th-graders are getting into illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Perhaps most depressing of the statistics was that 2.4 percent of the county's 6th-graders said they needed treatment for alcohol, tobacco, drug abuse or dependence.

The Wailuku task force is targeting specific Central Maui neighborhoods. A 20-year-old resident of one of the neighborhoods said he had seen 12-year-olds involved in selling illegal drugs. He said police are called, but by the time officers arrive the young drug dealers have disappeared. That's where the neighborhood residents come in.

So far, the Wailuku Community Action Mobilization Task Force is still planning its attack, mostly aimed at providing healthy activities for youngsters. Members of the group could use more help, but it's a start toward finding a grass-roots solution to a community problem.

For more information about the task force and its work - or to start a similar group in your community - call Thelma Akita-Kealoha at Maui Economic Opportunity Head Start at 249-2988, ext. 60.


copyright 2008 Free To Grow
Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.