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A Joyful Tribute to Raylene Kawaiae‘a
On behalf of the Joyful Heart Foundation ‘ohana (family in Hawaiian), we honor dear friend and cultural practitioner Raylene Ha‘alelea Kawaiae‘a, who passed away on March 9, 2012. Since 2010, Raylene was an important contributor to Joyful Heart as a member of the Hawai‘i Advisory Committee.
Raylene spent her early years in California and Hawai‘i, always with music, culture and family as her roots. Raylene was a mother of five, a grandmother, daughter and sister, as well as an auntie to many. She was a hula master with her own halau (schools of hula) in California and Oregon, as well as in Kapa‘au, Kohala, located on the very northern tip of the island of Hawai‘i, where she lived since the early 1990s. Raylene worked in the Kohala public schools with children and youth, as well as with kupuna (elders). Among her many talents, Raylene was a musician, dancer, teacher and storyteller of Hawaiian culture and traditions. However, she was also a gifted practitioner of ho‘oponopono, a spiritually-based healing and conflict resolution process based in Hawaiian values and beliefs. For the past decade, Raylene worked at the Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center, providing services, counsel and mentorship to Hawaiian families in need. She was particularly dedicated to the children and youth of Hawai‘i, traveling around the islands and the world with her students. She taught them by example how to extend aloha for themselves and to others. She was their hope, and they were her hope for a future of goodness and peace.
For all of her accomplishments, however, Raylene will always be remembered for the deeply human being she was, and for the ways she exemplified and extended the fullness of aloha to everyone around her. She was aloha; she was love. Raylene freely shared her gifts with people at venues around the globe at the invitation of so many people who could feel the genuineness of warmth and generosity that emanated from her. She taught hula in Poland and Japan, shared her life philosophy in New Zealand, Taiwan and Europe and, in 2007, was among only a handful of cultural practitioners who were granted a private audience with the Dalai Lama during a rare visit to Hawai‘i.
Anyone who had the honor of being in Raylene’s presence could feel the palpable essence of her calm yet powerful spirit, and at Joyful Heart we were blessed with many of those moments. One of the first gifts that Raylene offered Joyful Heart was an ‘oli (Hawaiian chant), specifically to honor Mariska as our founder. Raylene performed the chant with her colleague, Na‘auao Vivas, at Joyful Heart's Neiman Marcus Hawai‘i event in September 2010. Raylene was a humble and unassuming person who spoke only barely above a whisper, yet when she opened herself to the strength of our ancestors, her voice resonated beyond space and time.