My longtime friend Matt Levi is a private investigator who's so private he never advertises and he's not even listed in the phone book. Still, with his contacts as a former investigative TV reporter, he doesn't lack for clients. And they know he's very, very discreet.
So it shouldn't surprise me that over the years, Matt has built a program helping children that is not at all well-known to the public. Just as quietly, the program has attracted the support of some of our top community leaders and community builders. It's called Lawakua, and it uses martial arts training as a foundation to give structure and discipline and mentorship to youths growing up in tough environments.
Last Saturday morning, many of the program's influential supporters gathered at Hawaii's largest public housing project--Kuhio Park Terrace--to see a student martial arts exhibition and to hear of young participants' academic and other progress. Some of the students are there by order of the state's Drug Court in Honolulu.
It was amazing for me to see, first thing on a Saturday morning, attendees that included Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court Ronald Moon and at least three other judges, the heads of four private schools--Jim Scott of Punahou; Joe Rice of Mid-Pacific Institute; Betty White of Sacred Hearts Academy; and Mahina Eleneki Hugo from La Pietra Hawaii School for Girls; also, Kamehameha Schools trustee Corbett Kalama, former Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donohue, a contingent of Kalihi police officers, top attorneys, big bankers, public housing managers.
I couldn't help but remember what visiting KPT was like for me as a crime reporter decades ago. I usually arrived just after the police, who were called time after time with reports of violent crime, family abuse, fires, theft. When police returned from within the sprawling high-rise to their blue-and-whites, they occasionally found them vandalized.
No wonder Matt joked to Saturday's visiting dignitaries, "You don't have to worry about your car."
Matt invited community members who support the program. And he said he wanted the young martial artists to meet people who had "achieved properly."
The kids, a little nervous but excited, gave presentations that showed their commitment to training. And those who spoke talked about how their lives were changing with bold hopes, new prospects. Some are now attending private schools on scholarship.
Matt's Lawakua program doesn't devote time to beating the drums of publicity. There's too much work to do--helping build new young lives is consuming. But in demonstrating both promise and results, Lawakua has a growing network of support.