What is the Bridge of Friendship?
Every fall, Nā Lei Aloha Foundation invites community contributors to participate at a half-day gathering based on a chosen theme with the aim of starting a conversation. The annual theme is never announced ahead of the time but is revealed as the conference unfolds through various activities.
Themes of past Bridge of Friendship gatherings:
2005 “The Individual” – Identifying similarities and differences as individuals
2006 “ʻOhana” – Foster a sense of ʻohana between individuals and organizations that will last beyond the event
2007 “Piece of the Puzzle” – Recognize that each person is an important piece of the puzzle toward the success of our larger community
2008 “Imagine the Possibilities” – Empower attendees to imagine the possibilities while infusing the aloha spirit into the process
2009 “Acts of Giving” – Encourage attendees to reflect on how they could personally make a difference in the lives of others by performing acts of giving
2010 “Gratitude” – Inspire participants to transform their internal feelings of gratitude into tangible actions
2011 “Interconnectedness” – Cultivate an understanding of our interconnectedness to encourage a feeling of responsibility, belonging, and caring for one another
2012 “Diversity Harmony Peace” – Committing to the process of creating harmony amid diversity in our immediate surroundings will be the first step toward a more peaceful world. How can each of us take that first step?
2013 “Empathy” – The desire and ability to feel what another person feels is the basis for a caring community that is wanting and able to address the needs of all.
2014 “Resilience, Reclamation, Renewal” – Cultivating resilience allows us to bounce back from our challenges, big and small. When we identify and understand the things that renew our spirit, we can act to reclaim ourselves and move forward toward the future.
2015 “We” is inclusive. It is simple. It is all-accepting and holds no sense of division or hierarchy. It spans past, present and future. It includes everyone without the need to understand or empathize. We come to the table as unique individuals, but in honoring “we,” we enlarge our capacity by allowing ourselves to cast a wide enough net for everyone to find their place within a solution.
2016 “Kuleana” – To accept something as “kuleana” is to gratefully receive and own a task with a deep sense of responsibility and privilege. What is our personal kuleana? What kuleana do we have as a community?
Why does Nā Lei Aloha host the Bridge?
Bringing people together is what we do. Nā Lei Aloha’s mission focuses on supporting or creating opportunities for diverse people to come together in ways that encourage uncovering common values and goals. Recognizing our commonalities can be a starting place for respect and cooperation to grow, and this can strengthen our Hawaiʻi community.
How we plan:
Our planning team includes past Bridge participants who volunteer their time to design a gathering to benefit like-minded community-contributing individuals, organizations, and therefore the community.
Although it is would be difficult to trace all of the direct or even indirect results of people meeting at the Bridge, we have heard a range of results such as organizations forming partnerships toward a singular goal, to individuals simply feeling renewed after being treated to a morning of thought-provoking conversation and getting to know others who are engaged in the community. What makes us most happy is hearing about real friendships that have resulted from meaningful conversation in the comfortable environment of this unique conference.
Comments from participants:
“Every year the Bridge of Friendship always helps me to remember what is most important in life…our connections with each other and how we can make it better for everyone. My spirit and being are lifted and nourished always!”
– Merton Chinen, Program Development Officer, Hawaii Dept. of Human Services, Office of Youth Services
“If you are interested in networking with other organizations to create and build a stronger community, if you need to take time from your busy schedule to assess your role in the broader community, if you need to reconnect with others who can support you, then participating in the Bridge of Friendship is just what the doctor ordered. You will leave inspired, renewed, and ready to face the world!”
-Lynne Waihee, President, Read To Me International
“Awesome day. I am so happy that I took the time to come. I wish the whole staff or colleagues could be here today.”
“Thank you so very much. Every year, I arrive feeling rushed, worked, frantic, and I leave more peaceful, grateful and full. I don’t know how, but I was seated with the perfect people to interact with, for both professional and personal reasons. This day is life-changing. Thank you.”
“ Thank you. Mahalo. Gracias. I felt inspired, grateful, honored, happy and amazed at how much love can be shared by perfect strangers.”