Reforest Hawaii Recognized by the Historic Hawai’i Foundation

KĀNEʻOHE, HAWAIʻI – Reforest Hawaiʻi and its property in the Kealakekua district of Hawaiʻi Island “Nani ʻEkolu” was presented with the Preservation Programmatic Award by the Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation. The organization’s 2019 Preservation Honor Awards Ceremony took place on Friday, May 31, 2019 at the YWCA Laniākea’s Fuller Hall in Downtown Honolulu.

On site to accept the award were Reforest Hawaiʻi founders Joe & Kristen Souza who are also the masterminds behind Kanileʻa ʻUkulele, a Hawaiʻi company dedicated to the creation of world-class ʻukuleles. They wanted to find a means to give back in a way that was both meaningful and in alignment with their values. “Our most important material, the wood to build our koa masterpieces, comes from the ʻāina…the land,” says master luthier Joe Souza, “so giving back to the ʻāina just makes sense.” In 2014, the Souzas acquired 96 acres of land in the Kealakekua district of Hawaiʻi Island. Then in 2016, they made the commitment that for every Kanileʻa built, a koa tree is planted. Since then, almost 18,000 trees and plants have successfully taken root on the slopes of Mauna Loa. These trees are protected, maintained and allowed to flourish without threat of clear cutting or invasive species.

The Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation also acknowledged the Souzas for their dedication to Hawaiian music and culture saying, “This award also recognizes [Reforest Hawaiʻi’s] efforts to connect ʻukulele musicians and composers with the land, contributing to the perpetuation of Hawaiian music as a cultural tradition. We congratulate you on your exemplary preservation efforts.” This comment refers to the Ola Ka ʻĀina CD project which is comprised of 13 original compositions gifted by award-winning artists for the purpose of restoring Hawaiʻi’s native forests. Ola Ka ʻĀina was nominated for two Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards in May of 2019.

About Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation:
Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation (HHF) is a statewide non-profit organization that encourages the preservation of historic buildings, sites, communities and objects relation to the history of Hawaiʻi. Founded in 1974, HHF has become the driving force behind historic preservation throughout the state through its core programs of education, advocacy and assistance to help improve the quality of life in our communities.

About Reforest Hawaiʻi:
“Ola ka ʻĀina, ola ke Kanaka.” When the Land lives, the People live.
Based on this ʻōlelo noʻeau (wise saying), the mission of Reforest Hawaiʻi is to plant endemic Hawaiian plants and trees that will live out their lives in a native Hawaiian forest. The overall goal is to encourage others to help revive, replenish, restore, reconnect, and reaffirm people with the native Hawaiian forests by reforesting with endemic Hawaiian plants and trees. They offer individuals and groups the opportunity to sponsor endemic plants and trees that will never be cut or harvested. Each plant and tree will receive GPS coordinates that will allow the sponsor to locate their tree on Hawaiʻi Island.

The Hawaiian Islands have lost about 90% of their endemic rain forests over the past 100 years. The Koa tree is a nitrogen rich species that provides nutrients for all other endemic under-story plants in the rain forest. The Koa is a keystone species that provides food and habitat for Hawaiʻi’s native insect and plant species. Endemic trees of Hawaiʻi protect the watershed of the ecosystem and combat erosion of the forest floor. For more information or to sponsor a tree, please visit

About the Ola Ka ʻĀina CD Project:
Never before heard music by Willie K., Kapena, Ben & Maila, Kenneth Makuakāne, Keauhou and more can be found on this full-length album. All proceeds from album sales go to Saving Hawaiʻi’s Forests, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to planting endemic Hawaiian plants and trees that will live out their lives in a native Hawaiian forest.

Ola Ka ʻĀina is available in hard copy with a full-color booklet including lyrics and translations. Copies may be obtained online at