Who benefits from non-profits? The Maui Farm

Fsleeping an abusive relationship, JC took her daughter to Women Helping Women’s 24-hour emergency domestic shelter. At the time, she’d never heard of The Maui Farm, but the staff at Women Helping Women got her on the waiting list for a residential program there. Soon, she and her 8-year-old daughter were living on 8 acres in Makawao with other women and children.

The Maui Farm’s mission is to provide safe, transitional housing with farm-based, family-centered programs to help families become self-sufficient. Originally incorporated in 1985 as a residential youth foster care facility, it has focused since 2006 on a more preventive, proactive approach, says executive director Kandice Johns. Rather than working with children after they’ve been separated from their families, the nonprofit organization focuses on keeping families together.

“It’s a substance-, drug- and violence-free campus,” Johns adds. Our focus is on single mothers with children who live with them. About 75% of our referrals come from Women Helping Women.”

JC says she feels blessed to have gotten into the program. “I was really worried about where we would go next,” she says. She and her daughter have been at the farm since October 2021, with a scheduled move-out date of January 2023. “That gives me time to really succeed and save up as much money as I can,” she says. They live in one of the five bedrooms in the farm’s plantation house and pay about $300 per month for rent. She must also help with chores around the farm.

“We have pigs, goats, chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs, and crop fields and gardens,” she says. So, twice a month on the weekends, each household helps with the farm. We feed the animals in the morning and afternoon. That’s our kuleana, to live on this beautiful property.”

Residents must also help on the farm one weekday per week. For JC, that means taking a couple of hours each Wednesday morning to work in the community garden. “The women from the office come up and help, too,” she says. “It’s really nice to feel like a family.”

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Residents at The Maui Farm must help on the farm one weekday per week. Photo: Courtesy of The Maui Farm

She says her daughter has been enjoying her time on the farm, especially interacting with and learning about the animals. “She absolutely loves it,” says JC. She was able to learn how to [bottle] feed baby goats because their mama died. … It taught her responsibility at such a young age.”

The Maui Farm also offers group therapy sessions, opportunities to generate supplemental income, and connections to other organizations that help people get back on their feet.

“We’re not just a housing program,” Johns explains. “We’re a family strength program.”

The Maui Farm helped JC get her car’s safety check sticker and registration, tasks that had been weighing on her for more than a year. “Within a couple weeks they had these resources they pulled, and they were able to pay for it all,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it because that was a huge burden.”

“It’s really nice to feel like a family.” —JC

She also takes advantage of The Maui Farm’s supplemental income programme, working up to 19 hours per week there to earn a bit of extra money. “I just wake up at 5 in the morning and water the crop fields and gardens,” she says. “It is so peaceful. [My daughter] is still sleeping, but I know she’s safe. It’s just like being in my backyard.”

Johns says ensuring residents feel safe and secure is paramount. “Another unique thing about our program is having those hands-on experiences that connect families to the land,” she says. “I think it’s just very restorative in many different ways.”

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The Maui Farm provides farm-based, family-centered programs that teach essential life skills for self-sufficient living.