VOLUNTEERISM: How Jena received from giving back

VOLUNTEERISM: How Jena received from giving back

VOLUNTEERISM: How Jena received from giving back - ShopYWCA
When Jena heard about the mission to empower women through ShopYWCAs social enterprise she immediately asked “how can I help?” She started planning and organized the first designer bag donation drive to “help women feel beautiful and powerful.” Jena solicited over a dozen new and slightly used designer bags and accessories from her personal network that made an impact through fundraising. Although Jena herself is very frugal and thrifts everything, she believes that nice designer pieces can make people feel confident and are transformative.

 The next time you enjoy a lovely day at the beach in Waimanalo or Kailua and see a group of friends randomly picking up cigarette butts and plastic pieces, there’s a high chance that it's probably Jena’s group. There’s no supervisor to log volunteer hours or weigh the trash collected, it’s just Jena and her friends cleaning up the beaches - just because.

This alone says a lot about Jena’s character and upbringing, yet there’s more to the story that makes her even more admirable and deserving for this month’s donor and volunteer spotlight.

Jena Funakoshi is a Public Health graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She is currently working at UH Cancer Center as a Graduate Research Assistant.

Jena's inspiration to give back to the community comes from her parents - growing up in a household where the community is always part of the conversation. “What they did just made sense to me, and it’s something I want to do too,” Jena’s voice beamed while describing her mom and dad’s heart to support the underprivileged, and the environment.

During the pandemic, she raised funds, collected donations and orchestrated a campaign, which provided essential hygiene products to houseless people in need. “I made the packages and distributed them myself,” she said.

Jena has been volunteering since her undergraduate years. She volunteered for Shop Small Hawaii, YWCA, and for MINA (Malama i Na Ahupua'a). She helped with manpower at events, took photos and made social media videos, and learned about ancient Hawaiian history while restoring sites.

When there is a need for a task to be done, and if Jena can do it, she’s there.

“I feel grateful for my life so I give back to the community.”

Jena’s volunteering has given her a sense of fulfillment that comes from learning and hearing people's stories. She admires the strength of the women going through YWCA’s transformational programs, especially those who have been incarcerated - “I can’t imagine what they’ve been through,” she said.

She finds a sense of purpose and a desire to make a difference in other people’s lives for the better. Her volunteerism also motivates her as a public health student. She said her goal is to help develop healthy food interventions and education among people who are disproportionately affected by cancer or diabetes.

And Jena’s doesn’t stop there.

During the interview, she announced that she plans to become a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters. “I’ve actually just submitted the application.”

You are an inspiration, Jena.

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