Business Matters: Changing lives through empowerment at Pacific Gateway Center

Business Matters

HONOLULU (KHON2) — A nonprofit that is tucked away to a small warehouse with less than 12 employees has changed lives.

The Pacific Gateway Center has worked to serve the disadvantaged for more than 40 years — primarily those who have been uprooted and displaced.

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Their work helps a variety of people from political refugees to victims of sex trafficking.

“Immigrants coming into the community don’t have access to language. So they often need language services to support them with the Department of Education, the healthcare system, the legal system, immigration, through the whole immigration, we have to support them in all of those different categories.”

David Laeha, program executive director

The organization recently got grants to support people starting up small businesses — entrepreneurs who are looking for direction and opportunity to succeed — in addition to providing services.

“Different types of things that you just go to our website, click on the intake form and tell us all the different things you’re trying to do as a business owner,” Lahea said. “And we are tasked with trying to support those organizations with other service providers.”

Another facet of the organization is farmland: 176 acres of it in Kunia.

“We have about 41 farmers, most of whom are refugees and human trafficking victims who were brought here as farmers who are indentured to be working on the farm,” Lahea said.

That farm and all it produces is at the center of what this organization does. It is more than just an office space; The building is home to 11 certified kitchens. All are used by local entrepreneurs and food truck owners who otherwise would not have a place to cook.

“These kitchens are very important,” said Soul Fusion chef Lokii Dobbins. “They give us an opportunity to get back to the islands with a culture of Soul food have good soul food over here.”

Food is at the center of what they do, from the farm to the kitchen to the table and even to The Pig and the Lady restaurant. The organization owns the building near where the restaurant is located and the staff helps train people in the food service industry.

“So this became the basis of starting the whole farm program,” said Gregory Pai, board president. “But it eventually blossomed into the whole farm-to-table project.”

Pai said when it comes to the organization’s secret to success, it comes down to a single word — empowerment.

“We do social services, language services, guidance counseling. We also teach people to fend for themselves. What we’re trying to do is move more toward social empowerment, political empowerment, psychological empowerment, you know, a sense of being and participating as an equal in society,” Pai said. “To me, that’s the most important thing for us to do all of this all of these are various ways in which we, you know, carry on that idea of empowerment for the lesser advantaged in our society.”

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