On a Mission - Tamika and Lesley, Co-Owners of Aloha Missions, are Sharing Stories Through Aloha
Tamika Cabiles and Lesley Cummings are the humble co-owners of Aloha Missions, a Maui lifestyle brand dedicated to positively influencing the local region through community service projects that spread cultural awareness and promote sustainability. Both born in Waiehu, Maui, and raised spending time in the majestic ‘Īao Valley on the northwest corner of the Valley Isle, they each hold a strong, spiritual connection to the ‘āina and the stories of its ancestral residents. Three years ago, Tamika and Lesley came together with a clear purpose to share the aloha spirit by creating a connection between people, their natural resources, and the island as a whole. Today, Aloha Missions is teaching lei making in after-school programs, planting native Hawaiian plants, and encouraging people to vote. We connected with Tamika and Lesley to learn about their inspirations and how they are spreading aloha to perpetuate Hawaiian culture on Maui.
How would you describe the overall vibe of the Maui’s northwest region?
Lesley: It’s a magical experience that even those who live here still haven’t embraced, but it’s become a daily practice in our life to embrace the magic that is created by being allowed the privilege to go to these different locations. It will make you live your life with that aloha spirit that we’ve been blessed with to live here every day.
Tamika: That’s right, it is very magical, like Les said, but there’s also this deep connection. There’s a spiritual connection that calls you. It comes from your na‘au [gut; of the heart or mind, affection].
Can you share with us your connection to ‘Īao Valley?
Lesley: I am who I am today because of this place. When I’m in the valley, in the water, I feel this immense amount of energy going through my body. And everything I feel is speaking to me to just be still for a moment. That first step in the water is actually a moment that’s hard to describe, but it’s this feeling that everything in you is cleansing. It’s just releasing and you’re connecting to something much greater than what you’re seeing.
Tamika: As soon you touch the water and you feel the mana, it just quiets you. It’s an automatic reaction of stillness. I feel like you have to be connected to feel that stillness, though. Not a lot of people can have that moment, but if you take the time to really feel it, as soon as you touch that water, it’s just complete quietness, stillness, and reflection.
What are people missing—residents and visitors, alike—when they visit these special places today?
Lesley: ‘Īao Valley is a pretty well-traveled-to place. I think it’s just automatic—you walk in and you take a picture, and then you’re good. That’s all you need to do. Same thing for locals, I believe. You go get your photo, and you have a beer and you go. I think it’s just embracing the experience of going to a place that is culturally significant to Hawai‘i, being able to just let it speak to you in whatever way you feel like, to see how you can travel this island, or live on this island with conscientiousness. There’s that disconnect with the visitor and local, you know, as far as really respecting and understanding how these special places are supposed to be treated.
How are you two changing that mindset?
Tamika: We created Aloha Missions about three years ago when we were trying to figure out what our role was on the island of Maui. Now, our purpose is sharing that aloha spirit, sharing a connection between not only people, but our natural resources, our land, our island. We’ve been working with na keiki [the children] creating aloha-based experiences. We go in after school, make lei, we plant plants, Hawaiian plants, and recently we’ve done workouts with them to get ready for the hō‘ike [event] that they’re having. We’ve also teamed up with Blue Zones here on the island to create banana stump arrangements, so super natural, instead of using a Styrofoam type of material.