YWCA Pays It Forward
Renae Hamilton-Cambeilh and Mo'olelo Murals artists pose in front of the freshly painted mural

Renae Hamilton-Cambeilh and Mo'olelo Murals artists pose in front of the freshly painted mural

YWCA staff attend a 2021 Stop Asian Hate rally

by Allison Young

In 2012, YWCA was a recipient of KIUC’s Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant Program (REDLG) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is a 0% interest 10-year loan for nonprofit community organizations. In 2022, YWCA finished off their final payment. Renaé Hamilton-Cambeilh, Executive Director, has been with the YWCA for 25 years in various positions. Renaé shared with us about how the YWCA used the funds to further their work on the island.

Aloha Renaé. Please tell us the history of YWCA on Kauaʽi and its mission.

The YWCA was founded by Elise Wilcox on Kauaʽi in 1921, originally to help women who did not have opportunities outside the home. In the 101 years since then, the scope of the YWCA has greatly evolved. We have 45-50 people on our staff, which includes 24-hour crisis counselors, therapists and prevention educators.

Our current mission is to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. We are really trying to increase our efforts in the racial justice, LGBTQ, population immigrants and all of the very vulnerable voices that are not as loud or heard from as often.

We have a 3-pronged approach to end domestic and gender-based violence:

  1. Victim support – This includes crisis interventions, providing shelter and counseling to survivors.
  2. Prevention – This includes prevention education in schools, financial empowerment, racial justice work and LGBTQ awareness.
  3. Treatment and counseling for batterers and sex offenders so they are less likely to reabuse.

How did the YWCA use the KIUC REDLG loan?

We really appreciate the loan from KIUC. The 0% loan was amazing for us as a nonprofit. We used the loan to purchase our building, originally a credit union, on Rice Street, and completely refurbish and remodel it to become our Women’s Center, where many of our programs are based. We’ve always seen the Women’s Center as a community space, we have a meeting room for community groups. People can walk in during our operating times, we always have someone at the front desk.

How does domestic violence affect people on Kauaʽi?

Since we’re on an island and in a rural community, we have limited resources. The YWCA is the only provider of 24-hour crisis/violence help on island. During the pandemic, we were considered essential services. It was a challenge trying to keep a 24-hour facility and a community house healthy. There was an increase in domestic violence, people were home and there were other tensions and stressors in that environment. The close-knit community is often supportive, but if people don’t believe victims it can also make it hard for them to get help.

Who can get help from the YWCA? Do you only serve women?

There are always some misconceptions about domestic violence and sexual assault, it’s not something people want to talk about until they need to. We have had men and boys in our shelter, too. We serve all survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex. YWCA of Kauaʽi serves all, proudly.

For our prevention education programs, we send educators to 16 schools around the island, and they’ve been invited back year after year.

What is the story behind your beautiful mural?

We worked with the Hawaiian organization Moʽolelo Murals. The main concept of the mural is inspiration. The artists and board of directors and staff wanted to create a mural any young girl or woman could find themselves in. Hopefully it can assist people impacted by domestic violence or sexual assault in their healing process - knowing that there is hope and support out there, and a community behind them. Knowing their own power, potential and infinite possibility.

This article was also informed by Assistant Director Mia Carroll and Shelter Director Emma White. To learn more about the YWCA’s programs and upcoming events, visit: https://ywcakauai.org

If you’d like to support the YWCA, the Family Violence Shelter accepts year-round donations. To view their Wish List, visit: ywcakauai.org/get-involved/donation-wish-list

Moʽoleo Murals is a program through Kamāwaelualani with the mission to preserve and perpetuate moʽoleo of Kauaʽi’s places and people. For more information, visit: www.moolelomurals.com

If you are in immediate danger, call 911
24-Hour Hotline for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault:
(808) 245-6362

Web Chat and Text Support Services:
Available Monday – Friday
10 am – 10 pm HST


TEXT: (808) 245-6362

The KIUC Revolving Loan Fund provides opportunities for both not-for-profit and for-profit entities on Kauaʽi to obtain loans at lower than base rate interest. The primary goal of this program is to build and maintain jobs, diversify Kauaʽi’s economy, and upgrade the public infrastructure when conventional financing is insufficient, unavailable or unfeasible. Applications are received year-round and reviewed by committee.