Kalihi has proven to be the “first stop” for migrants since labor recruits started arriving in Hawaii around 1850. It’s no mistake that this area earned and still maintains the title: “work engine of Hawaii”.
One hundred and fifty years since the first mass migration to Hawaii, Kalihi remains a multi-ethic area, and the same can be said for the residents of The Towers of Kuhio Place with around 25 different ethnicities and languages represented in the resident population.
The largest race, per the Census categories, is Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. This is a broad category, and to better understand the mores, norms and needs of our residents, we break that category down into the 4 top races: Micronesians = 41%, Samoans = 23%, Native Hawaiian = 13% and Marshallese = 6%. The latest arrivals come from the Compact of Free Association (COFA) nations, as defined by a treaty between the U.S. and Pacific Island nations that include the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Palau.
COFA citizens comprise close to half of TKP’s resident population and have a tragic story that not too many Americans know. Beginning in 1954, US Department of Defense took over this region as “Administering Authority” and detonated a hydrogen bomb 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bombs that ended WWII. The destruction caused by this bomb cannot be overstated. Because the fallout from hydrogen bombs does not dissipate like atomic bombs and instead enters the soil and the water, the toxicity will continue to manifest diseases for another 5 generations. That was the first bomb and a total of 66 nuclear bombs were exploded during the next 12 years.
As a result, many COFA citizens suffer horrendous co-morbid health disparities from exposure to nuclear toxins and moreover suffer disorientation through the move to the U.S. seeking health and human services promised through the treaty. Many of the programs offered at TKP by our many partners and BT, endeavor to directly address health and acculturation.