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The Family That Volunteers Together

Erin Leake and Jaevyn Navarro

Mother and son duo volunteer together; inspire each other and those around them

There’s nothing quite like the bond between a mother and her son. It’s a special connection. For Erin Leake and her 14-year-old son Jaevyn Navarro, it’s a bond that continues to inspire. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, both Erin and Jaevyn have been steadfast in their involvement with Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i by volunteering at a vareity of Pop-Up Food Distributions. On top of that, Jaevyn also volunteers at the Līhu‘e warehouse after school.

When speaking with Erin, she hopes volunteering helps Jaevyn gain an understanding of what it means to be a kind human being.

Erin explains, “With all that is going on with the world, I believe it’s important to teach our youth the true value of kindness and how it can have a domino effect to change the world. I also hope that he realizes how fortunate he is to be part of a supportive community. Most youth have the ambition of leaving the island and starting a new chapter of their life, and they forget about where they come from. If Jaevyn leaves to further his education, I hope that — through his experience of serving on Kaua‘i — he will have the desire to come back and continue serving his community.”

Erin became a mother at an early age. She describes her experience openly, looking back on that time in her life, “What other people had to say triggered a lot of self-centered parenting on my behalf. Their words hurt.”

She explains she was too concerned about proving people wrong that parenting became more about herself than what her son needed her to be. She started questioning herself, “How does he need me to support him? How do I become the best parent for him? How do I properly nurture him?”

Erin Leake and Jaevyn Navarro

"With all that is going on with the world, I believe it’s important to teach our youth the true value of kindness and how it can have a domino effect to change the world.”

Erin Leake, Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i volunteer

After reflecting deeply on these questions, Erin humbly vowed to do everything she can to be the best parent for her son. Today, she rests confidently knowing Jaevyn is “ten times the person [she] ever was at his age.”

Growing, learning and volunteering together is a blessing for the mother and son duo. Not only has it brought Erin and Jaevyn closer together, but it has also exposed them to a community of amazing people. She is truly grateful.
“Thank you to our families, coaches and teachers, and thank you to Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i,” says Erin. “Thank you for adding to our community. Jaevyn has so many positive role models in his life, and — as his parent — I am truly blessed.”

Erin hopes to influence others to volunteer — particularly those close to her and her son’s ages. She wants to guide her community’s youth to lead courageously by example.

It’s a sentiment that her son holds close to his heart, as well.

“Don’t care about what others think of you,” Jaevyn says firmly. “What’s cool may not always be right, and — most times — what’s cool doesn’t always help you be a better person. I am learning to lead by example.”

Jaevyn hopes to gain experience so that one day he will be able to lead and organize a food distribution, himself. He loves having the chance to give back to families who are in need. He hopes to encourage everyone to pay an act of kindness forward.

When asked who motivates him to volunteer, Jaevyn said, “Family.”

He pointed out his mom; his uncle Addison Bulosan, Hawai‘i Foodbank Kaua‘i Advisory Board member; and close family friend Tiffany Sagucio, Miss Kaua‘i Filipina 2019. He watches them work productively in the community — always showing up with smiles and unselfishly giving back.

“I hope to be an example for my little brother and sisters along with my peers — just as they are for me.”

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In observance of King Kamehameha Day, our warehouses will be closed Friday, June 10. If you are in need of emergency food assistance, please call 2-1-1 for Aloha United Way.

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