When Krista Harper’s first son, Hudson, was born in 2016, she was a military wife with few close friends and relatives in Hawaii.
“I was really alone when I became a new mom,” says the 31-year-old marriage and family therapist from Virginia. “Nobody came to the hospital when I gave birth besides my (visiting) parents and my husband.
“Now, going into the birth of my second baby, I have friends who want to throw me a baby shower, who want to come meet my baby at the hospital and who want to bring us meals when we get home from the hospital.”
She says the difference was joining a 12-week class developed by the nonprofit Family Hui Hawaii when Hudson was 6 months old. “Having that group of moms in my life has helped me manage my anxiety. They remind me that it’s normal to struggle as a mom.
“It’s been completely life-changing for me.”
Harper loves Family Hui so much, she trained to become a volunteer parent leader and led a toddler hui last spring.
“Family Hui Hawaii aims to be a first-contact provider to young parents – especially first-timers – who have prenatal to 5-year-old children,” explains Executive Director Cherilyn Shiinoki. “They need the most support. Sixty-one percent of Hawaii child abusers self-report that the major factor precipitating the abuse was an inability to cope with their parenting responsibility.”
After the popular The Baby Hui from the ’80s disbanded in 2011, the groundwork was laid to begin a separate Family Hui, which incorporated in 2013. “The need in the community was still great. When The Baby Hui dissolved, they had 350 families on their waitlist,” Shiinoki says.
She says the nonprofit has grown through word-of-mouth and referrals from doctors’ offices and the early-childhood community.
“Our peer-led neighborhood groups are led by fellow parents trained in our curriculum – not by parenting experts. We’ve expanded with other groups, such as a pilot program called Hui in the Workplace, where we help companies build a caring culture, then Hui at School, where we bring Hui concepts into early learning centers, and then we have mentor-led programs with partners such as the Family Court.
“Our program is based on preventing child abuse and neglect.”
Its annual budget is about $210,000, with half of that coming from city grants-in-aid. It has two full-time and three part-time employees. Although Shiinoki is optimistic about continued growth, she wishes her group had additional funds to reach more people.
“We have about 350 families go through our programs every year. We have many others who come out to our public events, or who read our parenting tips on social media. So we’re probably reaching well over 1,000 people. The cool thing about Hui is that it’s a really inexpensive way to support families in your neighborhood.
“We say, ‘It takes a Hui to raise a parent.’ ”