Kupuna Life: Leona Jona grew a multi-cultural radio station

Kupuna Life

Leona Jona, grew this multi-cultural radio station in Honolulu from programming in four languages to eleven, plus various dialects.  Making sure Hawaii’s immigrant communities, people with Limited English Proficiency, have music of their native tongue to enjoy, and more crucially, access to important information regarding health and wellbeing.  

Leona, co-founder Ethnic Education Hawai’i, said “I came to the United States as a refugee in 1956, Hungarian Revolution. I think I could understand other people who are on this station, I understood what they went through.”

Leona came to Hawai’i 39 years ago.

She got a job at KNDI, when it was at the International Marketplace in Waikiki, then bought it in 1988, moved it here to King Street, and six-years later co-founded Ethnic Education Hawai’i or EEH, a non-profit that keeps the station running through grants.  And after the large earthquake in 2007, Leona secured another grant for generators and forged relationships with the Japanese radio station KZOO and Korean Station KREA to make sure people know what to do when emergencies happen. 

Leona said, “I can say that 90 percent that all the Hawaiian people living in Hawaii who’s first language is not English are covered and that makes me happy.”

Singer, musician Rolando Sanchez has long had a Spanish language program “the Latin wave” Sundays on KNDI.

Rolando Sanchez, Musician and KNDI Spanish program announcer, said “I would really like to say thank you for everything you’ve done for all the different communities in Hawaii.”

Leona sold KNDI six years ago but leaves a legacy that benefits tens of thousands in Hawai’i, she’ll be honored at the 25th anniversary celebration of EEH this month, and still, with so much knowledge and wisdom and heart to share.  

She says, “I’m right now 89 and the only thing I can say is I always had a purpose in life and the only thing I can suggest for young people is never work for only money, but something, something that they believe in.”

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