HONOLULU (KHON2) — The YWCA is Hawaii’s oldest and largest women’s association with a mission to empower women and eliminate racism. On Thursday, they celebrated after two years with over 600 guests.

The chief executive officer of the YWCA Noriko Namiki mentioned they honored four amazing women leaders at this event, and Leader Luncheon started in 1977 “when nobody in this state was honoring women. And we said why not, there are so many women worthy of recognition. So, we started leader luncheon and the rest is history.”

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The four leadership honorees spoke along with two YWCA participants.

One YWCA participant, Raquel Pupuhi, spoke about her troubled past. She said she had been in bad relationships “plus I had a child when I was 16 and it just was rough, you know, so I ended up getting into trouble with the law and doing a lot of time.”

Pupuhi told KHON2 she didn’t want to be a lost cause anymore, that’s when she turned to the YWCA.

“It changed my life. they gave me stability, they gave me a sense of purpose, they gave me direction, they showed me what life was really about.”

Raquel Pupuhi

She found purpose by teaching anger management, vocational training and mentoring.

“I just want to save one life everyday if I can, you know, and show them that there is a reason. you’re here for a purpose,” Pupuhi said.

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Her message to girls and women struggling like she once did is “you’re stronger than you believe, and you can make it and never ever give up no matter how hard life gets.”