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We Are Oceania
We Are Oceania
We Are Oceania
The people at WAO knows firsthand the social injustices that are experienced by many COFA citizens. WAO has helped many COFA citizens navigate through the system that are unknown by many. In addition, it has helped them with acculturation to the Western system that are a challenge to the new and old migrants due to the language access barrier. WAO offers a centralized service and is continuing to service the targeted communities. Our founder, Jocelyn Howard, was one of the first wave of Micronesians migrating under the Compact of Free Association Treaty which allow citizens of Micronesia to live and legally work in the United States and its territories. She has over 15 years of servicing the community and piloted a one stop center model. In addition, she has been pivotal in advocating for the Micronesian people in regards to social and economic justice. WAO also has over 150 partners in the community which includes Micronesian advocacy organizations and local churches throughout the state of Hawaii. It also collaborated on outreach efforts and obtains participant referrals from different organizations within Hawaii which is a key to WAO’s success. WAO also communicates regularly with Senator Mazie Hirono’s office regarding health insurance and for the vulnerable youths in Hawaii.
About the Organization:
$1 MILLION - $2 MILLION
Over the past 30 years, there has been an increase in Compact of Free Association (COFA) migrants to the U.S. with an estimated 20,000 – 30,000 FAS migrants currently living in Hawai‘i. Although their primary needs of medical care and health care stem from a long history of colonial powers in the region and the legacy of U.S. militarization and weapons testing, COFA citizens continue to be marginalized. With the increasing number of Micronesians migrating to Hawai‘i, it has become evident that these migrants face many challenges after arriving in Hawai‘i including acculturating to Hawai‘ian, local, and American culture and accessing available services without losing their traditions and values. Although they may arrive hoping to achieve the American dream and build better lives for themselves and their children, the reality is often much harsher. The experiences of migrants in Hawai‘i from the region of Micronesia are no exception. Cultural differences between Micronesia and Hawai‘i in the areas of medical care, employment, education, and laws, compounded with the unfamiliarity with navigating Hawai‘i’s systems and services, have led to the numerous challenges facing the Micronesian community in Hawai‘i. Among these challenges are homelessness, the highest number of student truancy, lack of job readiness skills, increasing numbers of children in child welfare services, and increasing numbers of juvenile and adult incarcerations.
Our solution to the challenges and needs indicated above was to establish We are Oceania (WAO), as a 501(c)(3) organization that aims to assist COFA migrant families to navigate success while honoring the integrity of our diverse heritage while living in Hawai‘i. And the first project was establishing a One Stop Center to centralize services to minimize the trauma of negative experiences and to provide a smooth transition for different experiences. WAO has to-date helped more than 5,000 Freely Associated States (FAS) citizens (specifically from the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Republic of Palau), seeking assistance in the areas of Health, Education, Employment, Child Welfare Services, Legal, Public Assistance, Housing, Social Security, Passport and I-94 replacement, Guardianship, Taxes, etc. WAO is dedicated to the development, implementation, and management of initiatives aimed at addressing various Micronesian community needs. One community need was a need for space for the youths. In 2021, WAO was able to secure a place for the youths to be mentored, have educational support, and assistance with college preparation and internships. Youths are able to be educated through in person and virtual talks on monthly readiness training in the areas of college, career, and community. Another community need was to help COFA citizens with insurance. WAO applied for a grant that would help the COFA community and obtained it this year. Previously, WAO was working with Partners In Development Foundation and was able to help ______ individuals. Many COFA citizens are content with the services they receive.