Our Caretaker: Luigi “Gigi” Cocquio

Born in Italy, in the small village of Uggiate, Gigi, came to Hawai‘i after being deported from the Philippines by President Marcos. He was serving as a Catholic priest there in 1976, working with the people in Tondo, the largest squatter community in Asia. Once in Hawai‘i, he soon became involved in the struggle for social justice on behalf of the Leprosy patients of Hale Mohalu. This struggle for social justice also continued on behalf of ensuring human rights in the Philippines. He has made Mākaha his home, and in 1979 became one of the founders of Hoa ‘Āina O Mākaha. Gigi continues to be involved with social justice issues in his community and globally.

If you are interested in learning more about Gigi’s life and work, you can read The Story of a Pencil. It’s an 84-pages ebook translated in English by Joseph A. Vancio, and adapted from La Storia della Matita, a book written in 2008 by Gigi’s cousin Elisa Barelli (Ku’uipo).

Our Administrative Assistant: Judy Seladis-Cocquio

Born in Hawai‘i, Judy has been involved in her community since 1974. With Sr. Anna McAnany as her mentor, Judy has been involved with women’s issues focused on family and health. Her involvement with the Women’s Support Group led her back to school and in 1991 she graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at West O‘ahu. She worked as a documenter for the Cancer Research Project, gathering and collecting stories from women in her community who were experiencing health problems and breast cancer. She has also served as a Case Worker/Health Educator at the Sex Abuse Treatment Program of the Wai‘anae Coast Community Health Center. Currently she has undertaken the fiscal and administrative duties of Hoa ‘Āina O Mākaha and coordinates the scheduling of visiting schools for the Ke Ala Learning Center.

IMG_20150818_160010-2Our Healthy Activities Coordinator: Shannon Shima

Shannon is loved by young and old. He is creative and funny. He takes care of our 5 acre farm, making sure that everything is ready for children and families. He ensures students and families get the most from their farm experiences, guiding them beyond academic-based lessons to build relationships with the land, their community, and their culture.

3455Our Volunteer Director & Cook: Brenda Abaro

Brenda has great knowledge of the community and the school and knows EVERYONE. “Leave it to Brenda,” we say. She is an excellent cook, great organizer of volunteering and Farm events, and also very hands-on. If you have a question, Brenda should be one of the first people you hunt out to ask. Chances are, she will know the answer. And she’s super nice, so you probably just want to meet her anyway, even if you don’t have a question.

IMG_20150820_092541Our Groundskeeper: Lonny Sipe

Lonny has worked at Mākaha Elementary for more than 10 years. With The Farm right next door, he found himself here after his duties were done at the school. He loves working at the farm, with the kids and assisting in the day-to-day tasks, because it gives him such an amazing feeling and the role he has in teaching our next generation to respect and love the land.

Kuʻuleilani Samson is our cultural expert and leads our Ke Ala program. She brings with her 8 years of farming experience from Maʻo Organic Farms and a wealth of knowledge acquired from the University of Hawaii as she worked towards her B.A. in Hawaiian Studies. We are most proud of the fact that Kuʻu is the result of one of the seeds of hope planted with Makaha Elementary School who is now with us to continue this mission and give hope to a new generation of children.

Danielle Steger will be our full time Nā Keiki O Ka ʻĀina teacher this year.  Her career includes teaching in Taiwan, Canada, and New York City prior to her move to Makaha Elementary School where she most recently taught 3rd graders and continues to tutor in the PALS program.



Jennifer Banglos is our Para-Professional Tutor, facilitating learning experiences for the special education students of Waianae Intermediate School and Waianae High School who visit Hoa ʻĀina O Mākaha each week. Responsibilities include teaching and working with students to care for the farm’s animal, assisting students with the care and maintenance of their garden, and coordinating activities with the teachers and other faculty/administrators to enhance their classroom lessons.


JasmineOur BEELIEVE partner: Jasmine Joy

BEELIEVE is an educational organization devoted to the livelihood of honeybees and pollination. Through outreach, workshops, farm tours and beehive removals, awareness is raised on the importance of actions necessary to reverse pollinator declines.