In 2017, Malamalama Waldorf School (MWS), located in the town of Kea‘au on the Big Island, received a generous donation from Denji and Mitsuko Aihara of Tokyo, Japan. The Aiharas had been traveling to Hawai‘i to teach the ancient Chinese game of “Go” to local schoolchildren and were looking for a site to construct a building dedicated to the teaching of Go. When the students of MWS showed an enthusiastic interest in learning and playing the game, the Aiharas decided the 20-acre campus was the perfect spot.
In March of 2018, MWS started planning the new building in line with the school’s site master plan. MWS approached GBI Regional Manager John Makoff for the use of GBI’s heavy equipment to clear an acre of the undeveloped, heavily wooded portion of the campus. Thanks to GBI’s generous donation of equipment—and the help of GBI Operators Terrence Salazar and Bernard Adams—the acre was cleared.
But a few weeks later, lava began to flow 10 miles away in Leilani Estates. The project came to an abrupt halt as GBI and the Kea‘au community came to the assistance of those who had been displaced by the lava. When the Aiharas returned to the Big Island in August, the lava had stopped flowing. While they understood the situation, the Aiharas contemplated redirecting their donation elsewhere at MWS, as the outlook for the new building appeared bleak.
At the same time, MWS learned of a gazebo building at the U.S. Army’s Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA) that was slated to be removed. It had been used for 20 years as a community gathering area at the military base. The PTA staff wanted the structure to be repurposed—and the MWS campus was the ideal location for it.
The gazebo building was deconstructed in December of 2018. Site work at the MWS campus started in February of 2019 and was completed over the course of six weekends using GBI equipment operated by GBI Operator Tracey Vinceint. The building permit was approved in mid-August, and a month later, Hale O’ Aihara made its debut. And the timing couldn’t be better: A blessing ceremony was held on Sept. 19—the same day Waldorf education celebrated its 100th anniversary.
Construction of Hale O’ Aihara was made possible by the generosity of the Aihara family and through donations from more than 30 individuals and companies. The building is not fully complete, as it is slated to serve a secondary purpose as a library. A fundraising effort is underway to complete the building.
Congratulations to GBI Project Manager Kenton Bowers for spearheading this project. GBI is proud to have partnered with Malamalama Waldorf School to provide an improved learning environment for its students, teachers, and parents.