The purpose and mission of the Cultural Learning Center at Ka`al` is to provide a program and place where people can gain a direct hands-on learning experience of traditional Hawaiian culture. The Cultural Learning Center at Ka`ala is dedicated to the preservation and practice of the Culture of the Po`e Kahiko (People of Old). The long-term goals underlying the mission of the Cultural Learning Center are:1. To promote, encourage and support the physical, mental, spiritual, social, cultural and economic health and well-being of the people and their communities through fostering an appreciation and understanding of the ahupua`a.2. To promote respect for significant cultural and spiritual objects and human remains bequeathed to us from our Po`e Kahiko and to preserve the physical features of our Culture which evidence the sophistication and wisdom our Hawaiian ancestors and their Culture.3. To increase community pride and stability by developing cultural, value-based anchors in the community.
The roots of Ka`ala Farm and its Cultural Learning Center reach back to the early 1970s, when a group of alienated youth involved with the Wai`anae Rap Center began hiking in the uplands of Wai`anae Valley. There, they stumbled upon rock terraces. Unversed in their culture, they didnt recognize them as lo`i kalo (wet taro fields). But they took the time to find out what they were, and soon shifted their focus. With machetes, picks and shovels, they threw themselves into the backbreaking effort of restoring this oasis of old. By replanting kalo and connecting with the life cycles of the `aina (land), they hoped to give new meaning to their lives. Ultimately, their goal was to create a parallel economic and cultural system, based on the traditional values of hard work, cooperation and respect. Over the past 20 years, Ka`ala Farm has offered a stable, enduring anchor for the community. Rather than simply lamenting problems, its founders have seized opportunities. The Childrens Education Program provides elementary school children a hands on opportunity to experience Hawaiian culture by planting kalo, making poi, creating kapa (bark cloth) and learning from kupuna in the ancient oral tradition. Wai`anae High School students in the Hawaiian Studies Program work with Ka`ala staff and volunteers to map pre-contact archeological sites and revegetate coastal and valley areas with native Hawaiian plants. Reaching out to the adult community, Ka`ala offers work therapy at the Learning Center for substance abusers and guided tours to interested visitors from O`ahu, the neighbor islands and beyond. Today, Ka`ala Farm continues to reach out to the community and its future -- the children -- in order to connect them with their cultural heritage. Forever looking for new and innovative ways to foster the Hawaiian spirit in all Hawai`is inhabitants