Executive Director – Paepae o Heʻeia
Hiʻilei Kawelo currently serves as the Executive Director of Paepae o He‘eia, a small non-profit that cares for Heʻeia Fishpond, an 88-acre, 800-year old traditional Hawaiian fishpond located on Oʻahu’s windward coast. She feels very fortunate to be employed by a non-profit organization that allows her to effectuate others through her passion that is Hawai‘i, its land and sea, its people, practices and traditions.
Hi‘ilei was born in Kailua, but credits her upbringing to her Kawelo-Ching ‘ohana of Kahalu‘u, O‘ahu. Her practice is that of a wahine lawai‘a (fisherwoman), specific to the Kāne‘ohe Bay area. Her family’s dependence on the Bay for sustenance has led her to where she is today. A 1995 graduate of Punahou School; Hiʻilei received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Zoology and certificate in the Marine Options Program from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. After graduating from UH, she worked at the Oceanic Institute (OI) for five years in the Fisheries and Environmental Sciences Program/ Stock Enhancement Program. Hiʻilei later left OI because of exciting momentum and opportunities to engage the community through the fishpond, which then led to the creation of the non-profit Paepae o He‘eia in 2001. The He‘eia ahupua‘a may well be one of the few ahupua‘a on the island of O‘ahu where the connection between land and sea is still maintained and is actively being restored. Paepae o Heʻeia’s work at the fishpond relies on the work of others in the ahupua‘a such as Papahana Kuaola and Kako‘o ‘Oiwi. These are truly exciting times and she is extremely honored to be a part of them.