We recommend that you come to Project Hawai'i with an open mind, heart and soul, as you embark on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Please read our FAQ before contacting us.
They may answer your questions.
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Is Project Hawai'i like a traditional Teen Summer Camp?
No! Project Hawai'i is a three-fold program:
(1): Project Hawai'i is an award winning teen mentoring program that allows the teens the opportunity change the lives of homeless children through our interactive projects. This is not just a random volunteer project. Teens have a focus and goal throughout the camp and become mentors to be proud of. We give our leaders of tomorrow the stepping stone they need today.
(2): The Cultural Experiences are unmatched. Our staff and volunteers are native or local Hawaiians that share their life and aloha. Teens will be introduced to ancient Hawaiian skills while learning the art of Hula, Ti' Leaf Skirt Making, Lei Making, Playing Ukulele and even wrapping Lau Lau. We are not on a tourist guided program.
(3): Adventure tours provide unique Hawaiian experiences with teen focus. Our program offers more adventures and tours than any other program out there.
Who participates in the program, and should I be nervous about not knowing anyone?
Our teens come from all over the United States with the desire to make a difference in the world around them while building new friendships and learning about different cultures. Teens that come on this tour are willing to put their best feet forward and step out of their own comfort zone to work together as a team to truly change the lives around them.
Don't be nervous! It is perfectly natural to be nervous of the unknown, however, those feelings will quickly disappear within the first few days after becoming familiar with your new surroundings and team. Our enthusiastic and caring staff spends the first days facilitating group orientation and team-building activities to assure that each teen finds his or her own space within the new group dynamics. Our staff is also trained to keep a watchful eye for the emotional well-being of each individual.
What are the behavioral expectations of the teens?
Project Hawai'i has strict behavioral guidelines to adhere to for the safety and enjoyment of all the participants involved. We have high expectations of our "future leaders" to be able to act responsibly and respectfully at all times. While most of our activities are structured and under constant supervision, we still expect each teen to be able to assume responsibility for his or her actions and choices. For those parents who feel their teen will not be able to control his or her behavior or are not likely to act responsibly, please do not send your teen on our tour. They will be returned home to you, at your own expense, and without any compensation or refund.
Can we bring our electronics on this tour?
While it is not suggested, we encourage all participants to come without cell phones, computers, video games, iPods, etc. Our reason: These items tend to take away from all the adventures and new friendships open to you. This is a very busy and well-rounded tour, and such items tend to cause distractions. We understand that this is a virtual world, but for a few weeks you can envelop a whole new experience and all your friends, family and virtual world will still be there when you return.
If you choose to bring such items, and they do cause a disturbance to the tour or other teens, they will be taken and returned upon your departure. We are also not responsible if your items get lost, broken, stolen, forgotten somewhere, etc.
How many students participate in each tour? How are they grouped — by age, gender?
We are a very small agency that actually only runs one tour each summer. We limit our tour to 25 teens. Our main focus is providing your teen with the opportunity to work hands-on with the homeless children during their camp session. This, of course, is run once a year.
Each tour will be split into smaller groups. Each group will consist of 8-9 teens. Each group will have its own camp counselor that will be with them for all events. We allow the teens to choose their groups when they arrive, during the orientation process. Typically, teens find common ground and interests among themselves. Since all teens are in high school years, we find that working for a common goal brings them all together regardless of their age. This entire tour is based on the needs of everyone involved.
Is this a coed group?
Yes, we aim to have a good mix of females and males on our adventures. Girls and boys will have separate living quarters and facilities. Your teen's privacy and respect is our concern, too. Usually, this project will attract more girls than boys, but we welcome them all the same. We have male and female staff to assure everyone's comfort.
What is the staff ratio?
1:5. We have 5 staff during all tours. During the summer camp activities with the homeless children, they have their own staff that combines. Our small groups allow for the individual attention and close interaction within the group itself.
Will my teen be safe on this tour?
YES. We take every measure to assure your teen's safety. Safety is our FIRST PRIORITY. However, we are an adventure-based tour in Hawai'i, and this has an element of risk. Risk management is always taken; all our staff is Red Cross CPR and First Aid trained. We have a lifeguard as well.
When planning our adventure tours, we require that each teen is dressed properly and has the adequate supportive needs. When we hike the volcano, we have proper outfits, etc. We follow the strict guidelines provided by all our professional guided tours that are set for everyone's safety.
Can we get references from past participants?
While your privacy, and others, is also a priority for our agency, we are happy to put you in touch with past teens that have placed their names on our email list. Please make this request to our Director of Programs. The smiles on the faces of our teens and homeless children on our site are also clues to the fun of our camps. Our homeless children stay in contact with the teens for years to come, and vice versa.
Why do you offer so many more hours of community service? Does that leave any time for other fun activities in Hawai'i?
We offer more hours than other tours because we are exclusive partners with Christmas Wish Program, Inc., which allows us to spend more one-on-one time with the children, and we are able to help develop their educational programs. We actually stay at the summer sleepover camp, which is where most of the hours come from. Plus, we participate in the fundraising, collection and handing out the backpacks and other items. We aren't just filling in a few hours here or there at various locations.
YES. We have plenty of time for all the fun activities; in fact, we actually participate in MORE tours and cultural adventures than ANY other agency. We don't provide a bunch of "free time" in the hotel, or at Wal-Mart, etc. Every waking hour is spent exploring or volunteering. We even have laundry service for the teens so we don't spend the whole day washing clothes, rather than at the beach or some other fun place.
I have never been introduced to another culture, why do you say we need to be open minded?
Well you are obviously a smart one to ask such a question.
As you travel to new places and different cultures, the new experience may challenge your ideas and preconceived notions about how the world works, especially from a teen's point of view. We have developed a supportive environment to allow exploration, questions and hands-on lessons. This is nurtured by our leaders' open and non-judgmental guidance. We become more aware of how we judge people and discuss the way we think about them.
Dealing with Homeless Children is a culture in itself. Not understanding the WHY or the HOW can be difficult and confusing, and becomes heartbreaking at times. Our directors and team know the benefits you bring as a mentor and teach you to learn and appreciate what you can do to make positive changes.
Being so immersed in the Hawaiian culture, not just a tourist, will also raise questions and the teen will become aware of this culture and learn to respect other cultures they may encounter without judgment.
What is the sleepover camp accommodations like?
That is a great question, most teens are nervous about this. It is not really 'camping'. We stay in cabins with beds, full restrooms, and electricity. The retreat is high in the mountains, so it is chilly at night. We recommend bringing warmer clothing to sleep in. Each cabin has it's own hot/cold shower for for teen's convenience to shower day or night. This camp is nestled in the most peaceful nature reserve, fresh air, and beautiful nighttime skies. The camp has a full kitchen to assure teens will have a well stocked fridge full of snacks. In the evenings the counselors feel like it is a huge slumber party in the girls' cabin, because they never seem to keep it down until late at night, with all the giggling and girly stuff.
What can I expect working with the homeless children?
Our homeless children are young and they don't have the basic social or life skills a well adjusted child would have. This is where your service and mentoring becomes even more important. For the day camp, you will help guide the children through the tour, or help them with the activity provided. Holding hands is a big part of the Adventures Abound camp as we walk and explore many different places.
For the sleepover camp you will continue with the same buddies; however, you will see them mature and start to gain social skills. At this camp you will guide your buddies through the days activities and in the afternoon help them get ready for bed, including teaching them to properly brush their teeth, and other proper hygiene skills. Once the group learns to trust, respect and support each other, the opportunity for growth is amazing!
Remember these children live in substandard housing and the skills they learn from you will benefit the rest of their lives to help them grow proud and healthy. So you can expect to change their lives, and hopefully yours as well.
Why is my Tuition Tax Deductible?
Your tuition fee is tax deductible because you are in turn sponsoring a homeless child or two for their camp needs. Our nonprofit organization runs by volunteers to enhance the lives of homeless children and we are not a for profit company. Your tuition helps us meet the goals of our mission.
What about FRIENDS? Should I bring one or not?
Super question. This is really up to you. It is always great to share your experiences with your BFF. This is a life altering experience and who better to share that with than your best friend.
On the other hand, those who have chose to come without their friends found new friendships and find their life changing experiences to be more of their own. Sometimes the teens become more independent without their friend, but....
some teens miss their friends so much they text and email daily or even hourly, and that is not a healthy response to the teens growth, so if that will be the case, we suggest to bring your friend!! There is nothing wrong with sharing experiences with the one's you love, after all that is what life is about. (And besides we offer friends discounts)
I know this is not the answer you were seeking; we just want to share the experiences we have witnessed.
Why can't my teen attend if they are just ENTERING High School?
Due to the level of their independence we find that the teens need the first year of high school before they are ready for the responsibilities that are required to successfully complete this project. We open this tour for teens between the ages of 14-18, or from the completion of 9th - 12th grade.
Why do you have such strict entry guidelines?
Our directors have dedicated their lives to helping others. Project Hawai'i offers several award winning programs to the teens to assure their success. Our program is designed to enhance the lives of those who participate. We feel the leaders of our future are those who are determined to make a difference today. We strive to help those who are striving for higher achievement levels within their own education and lives.
We take great care in assembling groups to look out for everyone's social experience. It begins with the type of teens who join us.
Our staff does not have time to deal with teens that are just looking for an 'escape' or a 'vacation' to Hawai'i, nor does your teen wish to be held back by those who don't share the same values with their educational success. The workshops and hands on opportunities we offer have helped many past participants to achieve their goals, attend the University of their choice and even landed their dream job upon obtaining their degrees. This is truly a life changing experience and we wish for only the best for our teens. Our standards are high, because we hold our selves to higher standards.
Can you accommodate my teen if they have a special diet or food requirement?
Yes, we will accommodate any and all special diet needs. And believe me, we have seen them all. If your teen has special requirements, we just need their allergy or other required list. There is a section on the application for this. However, if your teen does have a very strange eating habit, or need, it is best to supply us with a sample menu, or ingredient list before hand. Most of our meals are homemade from scratch. When we eat out, we will be sure that the restaurant can accommodate the special requirements as well.
Most teens that have a very picky or strict diet typically bring their 'comfort' snacks or items for their own security. We will meet their health needs with or without their foods from home.
I am anxious about the long flight to Hawai'i. There seems to be many transfers.
Okay maybe that wasn't a question, but here is your answer.
Yes, it is a long flight and typically has one transfer before coming to the island. We have made a few changes to allow for less unaccompanied transfers by hosting the arrivals and departures on the island of O'ahu for most of the tours.
This is a scary process if your teen has not done this before. So here are some great guidelines to follow:
1. Make sure your teens cell phone is charged fully before leaving for the airport.
2. Wear comfortable clothing and bring a pair of socks to wear after getting on the plane.
3. Bring snacks or comfort foods that will help your teen relax during the flight. Gum or Chewy candy will also help with their ears popping on take off and landing.
4. Of course every teen loves magazines, so bring a few
5. Pack as light as you can with your carry on bag, this becomes stressful when having to hold too much items or bulky bags when transferring and waiting at the next airport.
6. Make sure that the teen has their full travel itinerary with them, with the airlines and flight numbers. This will help if they get turned around in the airport between transfers. (We also include an emergency card for them to carry with important numbers.)
7. Bring $5.00 (or more) for the local Starbucks in the airport between transfers. No really this seems to calm down all the 'jitters' from flights. Even just the hot cocoa is great.
8. Have them call you between transfers, or if it is the wrong time zone for you, they can call me! I am a mom too.
9. Typically when the airline is landing the steward will announce the transfer and gates, etc. But that can become overwhelming if there is a lot. Have your teen ask as they DEPART the plane...NOT AFTER THEY HAVE LEFT.
10. There are always monitor with their connecting flight posted and they will direct where to catch the next plane. The teen should proceed straight to that gate and check in. Then can relax, get a drink, or freshen up.
11. Once on our island of O'ahu or Hawai'i, depending on your schedule. Our staff will be at the BAGGAGE CLAIM, typically BEFORE your teen to greet them. We have a Project Hawai'i sign with their name and a lei.
12. This is a very big step in their independence growth. Teens build self-esteem and courage from this experience. It is okay and everything works out fine.
OKAY...I know there are many delays and things don't always go as the airlines plan. That is OKAY! We are prepared to pick up your teen at any time.
If this does happen, the airlines will accommodate your teen with all the provisions from snacks, meals, transferring their NEW connecting flights, and even hotel arrangements if they need.
I know now it seems scary. For the past 10 years, I have only had a few teens who had to delay for more than a few hours. It is a process that doesn't happen too often. And the airlines are prepared to assist minors traveling without parents.
What if my teens signs up for a shorter mini tour and wants to stay longer?
This typically does happen. We only have spots for 24 teens. If your teen has signed up for the first portion of the tour, and a teen is 'taking the place' in the second tour, than we can not accommodate your teen. It is best to sign up for the whole 4 week tour if you are not attending the shorter tour for time restraints.
We really only designed the mini tours to accommodate those who were not able to attend the full tour because of other obligations.
When this program started, we had ONE tour, but a few teens had to leave early which left their camp buddy without mentors. So, we decided it wasn't healthy for the homeless children, and allowed others to attend late. With this in mind, decide what works best for you.
If there is room of course your teen can stay. Your teen becomes part of the family and we miss them even more when they leave us early.
How do I know if I am ready to become a Teen Mentor with this Service Project?
Our teens share many of the same goals and aspirations of helping to make their world a better place for everyone, opening their world to more possibilities for the future. Becoming a teen mentor is a big responsibility that typically adds more to yourself than to those you are helping. By working as a team, the teens are able to create an environment that their camp buddies will learn and grow from. This award winning program is designed to build self-esteem and gain leadership qualities to continue throughout your own education as well as your camp buddies.
Our teens are typically outgoing, up for adventure and enjoy working with young children. This program requires you to have an open mind and the willingness to learn a new culture. One unique benefit of this tour is that you don't have to leave the comforts and safety of America to learn a new culture. Our staff are native Hawaiian and locals from the islands to guide you with Aloha (in this case is love). If this sounds like you, then we invite you to become part of our 'Ohana (family) this summer.
Why is there only one program a year, and why do you only allow 24 teens?
We are not a tour company. Our mission is to provide this once in a life-time experience to a select group of teens to mentor OUR poverty stricken children. There is truly a difference between a TOUR COMPANY and a nonprofit agency that has a mission to serve homeless children. Our summer camp was developed for the homeless children, and we only have the energy to provide one summer camp a year. We decided to open this opportunity to teens that share our passion and create a truly unique opportunity to explore the islands and learn about our culture first hand.
We only allow for 24 teens, because we only enroll 24 little one's. As we have mentioned before, we excel to higher standards, and found through trial and error, the camp work PERFECT with a group of 24 little one's. We don't need more teens than we have little one's. Our goal is to pair one on one throughout the tour.
My mom wants to know why your tuition is higher than other programs?
(this is a real questions asked by one of our favorite teen mentors in 2010)
Oh, please tell your mom that is simple, you get what you pay for!
Yes, we might seem a bit more expensive than some others. But the quality of the tour, accommodations and staff can not be matched. And if we weren't volunteers, we would have to charge even more.
Here are a few ways we utilize your tuition costs:
1. We provide more tours and adventures that have a cost, entrance fee, or monetary need. We don't just hang out at the Walmart, or dorm rooms, (we don't even stay in dorm rooms)
2. Our teens stay in hotels on the beach. We feel that this is a once in a lifetime experience and might as well be on the beach, not in a hostel high in the hills, or at a dorm far from the ocean or what makes Hawai'i Hawaii.
3. Hawai'i has a 30% -50% higher cost of living across the board verses the mainland states. That does affect the cost for us because we provide the teens with home cooked nutritious meals, local style dishes, and other cultural aspects.
4. Our program comes with all the extras including hygiene products, welcome package filled with all the special needs of the island, camp shirts, beach towels, memory photo books and more.
5. And the most important part of all. Your tuition sponsors the summer camp for the homeless children. The 'profits' that other companies make go in their bank accounts, OURS go directly to benefit the children and support some of the camp needs. It's not a competition to us; it is the path to success for so many. You are the OTHER HALF of the success to this program.
6. Since your tuition cost is tax deductible the tuition is actually much less than any other out there, in some cases it is even like having a free tour.
7. Remember we do offer ways to fundraise, and all the people who help with your tuition also get the tax deduction.