Our Islands, Our Future

The Maui Huliau Foundation uses fun in filmmaking to get young people interested and educated in environmental issues. “This is just a cool way to tell stories and learn about what’s going on around us,” said Malia Cahill, the foundation’s president and founder. First started in 2010, Maui Huliau Foundation programs are open to students in grades 7 to 12. Cahill said she encourages students to take a neutral stance and learn through their filmmaking all the facts surrounding a specific environmental issue. “In teaching teenagers not to take sides, they can learn best by educating themselves about the environment,” she said.

The program’s students have traveled to film festivals in Honolulu and California, raising awareness about environmental issues on Maui. Through its YouTube channel, the student films have attracted almost 7,000 hits, according to the foundation. Cahill, a 2001 Seabury Hall graduate who grew up in Kula, said she started the foundation three years ago with the goal of getting teenagers interested in environmental issues. Filmmaking and story telling became the means to interest them in learning about their environment. The Filmmaking Club was formed first with 12 students. Now Maui Huliau Foundation has up to 40 students participating in three separate programs — one on film, another on service learning and watersheds; and the third on leadership and environmental projects. “It’s got its own life and momentum, I couldn’t stop it even if I wanted to,” Cahill said.

This month, the students premiered 11 films exploring a variety of environmental issues. They planned, directed and edited their films during an after-school program held at the Hawaiian Canoe Club hale on Kaahumanu Avenue in Kahului. Students from 13 different Maui schools presented their work to a sold-out crowd at Iao Theater. Topics range from the plight of the endangered Hawksbill turtle to a reality-style documentary about eating locally-grown food. A “Hana Hou” showing is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Seabury Hall Creative Arts Center. The event is free, however, donations of any amount will be accepted at the door. For more information, visit: