Joyful Noise: One Strong ‘Ohana

BY LendonEbbels | ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN

The Joyful Heart Foundation was established to help survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence heal and reclaim their lives. In 2006, a tragic case of child abuse and neglect in New York City inspired the organization to also address the youngest victims of violence. Since then, this work has expanded to Los Angeles and most recently, Joyful Heart's birthplace: Hawai‘i.

In 2006, the news reported that seven-year-old Nixzmary Brown was beaten to death in her home in Brooklyn, New York. Weighing just 36 pounds, Nixzmary had missed weeks of school in the months leading up to her death. She often had cuts and bruises and vague explanations—another fall, another accident. Home was a horror for Nixzmary, but somehow, so many caring adults in her community missed the signs of her abuse.

In response, Mariska became the face of a city-wide public awareness campaign urging New Yorkers to turn their grief into action and Joyful Heart changed its mission in 2008 to include child abuse and to reflect our commitment to children and survivors of child abuse and neglect.

At the heart of these efforts is working to engage members of the community—adults who are responsible for the safety and well-being of children—to prevent and end child abuse.

With One Strong ‘Ohana, the biggest child abuse prevention public awareness campaign in Hawai‘i to date, we’re finding an empowering and positive—definitely noisy and, we think, joyful—way to do just that.

Background

In 2010, the Joyful Heart Foundation formally joined in partnership with the Hawai‘i Children’s Trust Fund (HCTF), a public-private partnership between the Hawai‘i Department of Health and the Hawai‘i Community Foundation to develop how, together, we could nurture and promote protective factors among parents, caregivers and bystanders throughout Hawai‘i, Joyful Heart’s birthplace. The result is a groundbreaking state-wide public awareness campaign to prevent and end child abuse and neglect called One Strong ‘Ohana.

In the United States, nearly four children die every day as a result of child abuse and neglect. More than three quarters of these children are under the age of five and more than 40 percent of young victims won't live to see their first birthdays. Over 15 million children witness violence and abuse in their homes each year. In Hawai‘i alone, 4,199 cases of child abuse were reported in 2010.

Knowing this, but lacking key information on residents’ awareness of and attitudes about child abuse, the HCTF and Joyful Heart set out to conduct research throughout the state of Hawai‘i on the self-reported perceptions of child abuse and neglect. We learned that a majority of Hawai‘i’s residents have a low awareness of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect and that many people are uncertain of how to prevent or report abuse. Yet nearly 40 percent of residents know a victim of child abuse.

This research—and the genuine belief in Hawai‘i' that we are all one family (‘ohana) —built the foundation of the One Strong ‘Ohana campaign.

While the public awareness campaign is unique to Hawai’i, its message and the protective factors are universal. The strengths-based approach of One Strong ‘Ohana emphasizes that all of us—parents, caregivers and bystanders in the community—can play a role in creating a positive and healthy environment for children and families through actions that foster two of the key protective factors: social connections and concrete support for families.

One Strong ‘Ohana’s message and reach

Directed toward parents, caregivers and bystanders in the community, the One Strong ‘Ohana campaign emphasizes that simple things—reaching out to other parents to ask how they’re doing, offering to pick up groceries or watching the kids for an hour—increase social connections and support to reduce the incidence of abuse and neglect and build stronger families and communities.

With tools like public service announcements, posters and information cards—and with the incredible support of local community partners, media and corporate sponsors—the One Strong ‘Ohana message will reach nearly all Hawaiian adults dozens of times by the end of its first year. And this is only the beginning.

Making a joyful noise even louder

It is through the support of our corporate and media partners, who are standing with us during this campaign and are finding creative and inspiring ways to extend the reach of its message, that we are able to join together as One Strong ‘Ohana. The campaign would not be possible without the support of these partners, and we extend our deep mahalo to them.

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