Lama Chang, Manager of Operations
Lama is of Hawaiian, Samoan, Irish, Chinese, and German descent. She came to work with Family Promise by what she refers to as a “happy accident.” Having worked in organizations that used traditional Hawaiian cultural tools to improve the lives of the community, she knew she wanted to continue doing work that helped improve the lives of others. Knowing that Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are overrepresented in homelessness, Lama is in part fueled by the disheartening thought of Native Hawaiians “not having a home in their homeland.” She uses her work at Family Promise to reflect Native Hawaiian values of compassion and resilience and hopes that “as a community we’ll continue to do what we do to service the people.” When asked how she feels the housing sector could be made more equitable, she states that a cooperative approach of everyday people advocating for change as well as a change in policy would make a meaningful difference. She hopes that everyone who lives in and visits Hawaii will do so in a way that lives out the principles of Aloha ʻĀina, love of the land.
Jason Tannahill, Site Manager
Jason is a descendant of Korean and Filipino immigrants with roots going back three generations. He began his career in human services after obtaining a bachelor of social work. He did so after surviving years of substance abuse and homelessness. Jason is proud to help families overcome barriers such as housing inequality. Unfortunately through his work he often witnesses the discrimination that members of the AAPI community face when seeking housing. He notes a prevalent example saying:
“It’s just the way the system is set up for housing out here. Automatically [it’s] assumed public housing or low-income housing is set aside for a particular group of people, like Native Hawaiians and Micronesian communities. When you’re looking for advertising for housing, Hawaii has no law that says you can’t discriminate against Section 8. And you know if they say ‘no Section 8’ that implies something about what kind of person the people who have Section 8 are. There’s so many factors…if a family I’m working with can’t speak English all that well, I guarantee that’s a factor into whether they get approved or not…It’s really hard. It’s not something that’s spoken, you know it’s there. You feel it.” Jason works tirelessly, alongside the team at Family Promise, to help overcome these systemic barriers.
Josh Gaoteote, Program Director
Josh is of Samoan and Japanese descent. He has almost two decades of experience in the child welfare/human services field. Coming from a large, close knit family, he always knew he wanted to work with kids and originally planned to become a pediatrician. Josh grew up in impoverished neighborhoods where he saw children who witnessed drug use, neglect, and abuse often grew up to repeat the same cycle and wanted to support them in having a different outcome. He believes that housing helps to stabilize families so that they may go on to overcome negative cycles. Having done this work for as long as he has is no easy feat. When asked how he keeps going in difficult times, he says he turns to his faith and family/community for support. When asked what he hopes his impact will be he states:
“As long as I know I tried my best to help these families have a better life I’m satisfied. Even if it's just one family whose life is better. You know, for many of the kids it’s the little things, like having their own bed to sleep in and not having to fight for space in an overcrowded living room, or having the ability to lock their own door. So if I can help with that, I did good.”
A Generous Mother's Day Gift
In late April, Abby, who works as a nurse for a local hospital, called to see how she and her friends could help the children in our Emergency Shelter program get gifts for their mothers on Mother’s Day. Abby decided to host a fundraiser during Nurses’ Week and have all the profits go to Family Promise. 7sketches, a local artist, designed limited edition stickers that pay homage to nurses and others in the medical profession. The owner of From the Heart Hawaii graciously let the fundraiser be hosted in his store. Through pre-orders and same day sales, the team was able to raise over $1,200! The generosity and support that Abby, 7sketches, From the Heart Hawaii, the nursing community, and the community at large showed to make this endeavor a success, gave the mothers a gift that they will cherish for a long time.
Meet the Team
An Interview with Ryan Catalani, Board Member, Secretary
The FPH team (staff, volunteers, and board members) is diverse. We value this diversity as one of the strongest factors in our collective success. Drawing upon our range of cultural backgrounds, skills, educational levels, beliefs, and experiences fosters empathy, creativity, and community. In our upcoming newsletters we will be featuring a variety of team members at FPH so you can get to know them a little better.
This month, we get to know Ryan.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Kāneʻohe, went to college and worked on the East Coast, and returned to Hawaiʻi two years ago. Besides serving as a board member for Family Promise of Hawaiʻi, I’m the Director of Advancement at Hawaiʻi Children’s Action Network, a public policy-focused nonprofit working to ensure all keiki are healthy, safe, and ready to learn. I’m also on the board of Pacific Gateway Center, which serves immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
What brought you to Family Promise?
I actually was on the staff of the Family Promise affiliate in Delaware. I think homelessness is one of our most urgent social justice crises, and I’ve long been motivated to help work toward solutions. When I came back to Hawaiʻi, I was excited to have the opportunity to continue working with such an important cause — this time on the board level.
Do you have any hidden talents or hobbies?
I enjoy cooking and I think I’m pretty good at it!
What’s something you’re proud of?
There’s much to be proud of at Family Promise — first and foremost the dedicated staff and volunteers who carry out this vital mission every day. One specific example: I was glad to have the chance last September to connect Family Promise with Chef Hui, a volunteer collective of culinary professionals, to have them provide two nights of meals for the families.
What’s something you find challenging about your work at Family Promise?
It’s a continuing challenge to change the general public’s narrative around family homelessness. Too often, it’s seen as an individual, personal matter, rather than a societal issue caused by systems and policies that don’t work for families. I’m hopeful that Family Promise can continue to educate the public on the root causes of homelessness, change perceptions, and build support for the systemic solutions we need.
When you are not working, what's your favorite way to relax?
Ideally, I’d tackle my ever-growing stack of books, but realistically, I usually turn to TV. I just finished watching all of The Sopranos.