Employment Services – Nalu’s Story

Nalu Kauwe-Simeona began working for Pizza Hut Hawaii (Puainako Shopping Center location), in Hilo, Hawaii on March 31, 2016. Nalu’s journey towards seeking competitive employment began with Discovery – a comprehensive process that focuses on identifying the job seeker’s abilities, strengths, values, hobbies and interests towards employment. Through Discovery, Nalu’s love for Pizza inspired him to someday work for Pizza Hut Hawaii.

In support of Nalu’s career goals, Easter Seals Hawaii Employment Services partnered with Restaurant General Manager Michelle Moku to coordinate a situational assessment – with intentions to match Nalu’s vocational abilities to the employers’ specific needs. Nalu’s positive work ethic was the perfect fit for cleaning the dining area after lunch operations. A customized position was created and Nalu was soon hired as an official crew member of Pizza Hut Hawaii. His responsibilities include filling the ice dispenser machine, wiping tables and windows, scrubbing the window sills, cleaning the buffet line and sneeze guards and sweeping the floors.Pizzahut1.jpg

Through employment, Nalu’s independence has sky-rocketed. Since his official hiring date in March, Nalu needed just two months of hands-on job coaching services to maximize his independence at work, with emphasis on building relationships with his co-workers. Today, he works independently, without the need of an outside job coach and enjoys the natural support he receives from his supervisor and co-workers. “We enjoy having Nalu as part of the team; he arrives to work with a great attitude and looks forward to working every day,” said co-worker Cassi Kaneda, who monitors Nalu’s job performance.

In addition, Nalu learned how to independently catch a taxi to work from our ADH program, walk safely home after work, budget his earnings, and spend his hard earned money. Nalu’s dream is to someday save enough money to purchase his very own Ford Mustang GT.

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Nalu’s success story continues to inspire many. “This is just the beginning,” said Lahaina Olsen-Kuroda, Senior Employment Associate, who worked closely with Nalu throughout the entire employment process. “Everyone, regardless of the disability, has a unique set of skills that can benefit a business.   The key is finding the right fit for both the job seeker and the employer.” Nalu’s employment success opens the door for the next job seeker and helps educate businesses on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities. Michelle Moku, said it best when initially approached on the idea of hiring people with disabilities, “Everybody deserves an opportunity to work!”

Special thanks to Pizza Hut Hawaii for their partnership and commitment in building a better community!

Nalu Pizza Hut

Michelle Moku, Nalu Kauwe-Simeona, & Cassi Kaneda

Tackling Adversity By Helping Others

In one moment, Tisha Takazawa’s life would never be the same. After suffering a brain injury from a car accident at the age of 21, she was forced to re-learn everything from writing, to walking, to even talking. She lost a considerable amount of fine motor skills and the entire right side of her body became weak. She now lives with new physical challenges on a daily basis, but Tisha does not complain. She’s rather humbled by the opportunity to genuinely understand and deeply empathize with those she serves. Tisha has been working with people with disabilities and special needs at Easter Seals Hawaii for over 11 years.
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As the Adult Day Health Program Manager in Hilo, Tisha wakes up every morning with gratitude in her thoughts and happiness in her heart: “Before starting with ESH, I wanted something where I could make more of a meaningful impact. I wanted a change, I felt a calling, and now I’ve fallen in love with the work that I do.” She has been instrumental in the growth of the program, having had started with just five participants to now helping serve over 82. Adult Day Services, intended to provide adults with stimulating environments, opportunities, and experiences through community-based settings and activities, promotes substantial growth among participants and the community alike:
“Our job is to make the community aware, to open their eyes a little at a time, and to show them that people with disabilities are just people, like you and me.”

Tisha recalled a time when a particular gym owner in the community only addressed the staff member accompanying two participants and questioned: “so what can’t they do?” His blatant disregard for the two individuals was not of malicious intent; however, its impact was nevertheless felt. After about five succeeding interactions, the very first thing the owner did was address the participants directly, look at their faces, shake their hands, and ask for their names. This type of transformation exemplifies why Tisha believes the work Easter Seals Hawaii does is so important. Without it, bridging that gap – getting people with disabilities integrated, understood, and accepted within the community – seems unattainable.

Tisha is driven, however, to make a positive change. She embodies that which Easter Seals Hawaii aspires to do every day: change lives with Aloha. After experiencing such discouragement and despair on a personal level, she realized that despite all she had lost, in the end, she really had everything to gain – and remains thankful for all that she has:
“I look forward to coming to work, seeing the participants every day, enjoying their progress and happiness. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when they’re given the chance. [The participants] teach us all a lesson about what’s really important in life. And for that reason, Easter Seals Hawaii is just a good place to be.”