Letters2OurKupuna: Oahu family delivers thousands of smiles and cards to kupuna amid pandemic


HONOLULU (KHON2) – Many kupuna have been considered “high risk” during the Coronavirus pandemic, leaving them with no visitors or family to see.

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However, an Oahu family is giving kupuna to smile about once again.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tanaka ohana resorted to good old fashioned letters.

“My daughters and I were writing letters to our grandfather who lives in a senior living community,” said Michelle Tanaka, founder of Letters2OurKupuna. “My daughter said ‘well, if we’re going to write to grandpa, we should write to al the kupuna on the island.'”

Construction paper, crayons and dozens of letters later, the Tanaka’s program was born. The Oahu ohana put pen to paper for Letters2OurKupuna.

“It kind of just took off and to really see the aloha that the community has responded to the program is awesome.”

Since its start in April, Letters2OurKupuna has teamed up with local businesses, schools and various organizations like Kupuna Kokua and Lanakila Meals on Wheels to name a few.

“Knowing that that it’s being delivered with toiletries and with food, it’s like yes, they get that physical aspect, but this is more like the emotional mental side. We feed them spiritually, which is awesome.”

The program is approaching their 6,000 letter mark. Kupuna across Oahu are receiving countless hand written poems, songs, recipes and notes.

“A lot of it is just an appreciation, a bridge between generations. So this younger generation is just really telling them thank you for everything that you’ve done. That you do matter and that you’re not forgotten.”

Tanaka is a homecare nurse and knows just how special one letter can be.

“I’ve seen the frontline effects of what COVID-19 and the isolation and quarantine has done to our kupuna. Our tagline has always been, one letter can change a whole person’s story.”

Letters2OurKupuna hopes to reach their 10,000 letter goal by the end of the year.

“The holidays are coming and they can’t just get up and drive to their friend’s house. They can’t figure out zoom. They can’t figure out how to Skype. So what better way to deliver joy, than getting that 3D pop up letter to just show them that they’re being thought of.”

To learn how to get involved with Letters2OurKupuna click here.

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