Focus Session: Tropical Blends

Tropical Blends: Lasting Partnerships Build on Strength to Optimize Offerings

Dr. Matt Claybaugh, President and CEO of Marimed Foundation
Captain Bonnie Kahape`a – Tanner, Founder and Executive Director of Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy
Captain Kalei Velasco, Chief Mate aboard Makani Olu


This session will describe how to identify organizational strengths and challenges, and build quality programming across multiple disciplines by relying/trusting in the strengths of others.  It focuses on finding ways to move beyond ego and the outdated belief that each agency must have its own toys for its own use and anything less shows weakness or lack of capacity – because we can more rapidly build capacity to serve our communities by sharing resources  human, financial, physical. The session describes a process that begins with the sharing of similar ideas and can lead to the sharing of sites, administrations, personnel, curriculum, expertise, and finances. This interactive session will build on these concepts by asking participants to focus first inward on strengths and challenges and then become other directed as they consider opportunities and what the ideal collaboration might look like for their agency. 

Marimed and KVA now share resources that include three significant state and federal grants that total over 1.5 million dollars. This has enabled them to exponentially increase access for various populations to their ocean opportunities, maritime jobs and academies, and sustainable organizational administration.

Marimed and KVA are two independent Hawai`i nonprofit organizations serving various youth and adult populations through ocean education and hands-on maritime training. Their respective ocean-going classrooms, one a tall ship and the other a double hulled Hawaiian canoe; speak to the uniqueness of each organization in its educational orientation, cultural foundation, and method of entertaining opportunities. The two organizations are very familiar with one another, sharing and at times competing for Hawai`i’s limited resources in personnel, funding sources, and community champions. Through a series of shared activities they began to find opportunity in sharing resources and partnering. By celebrating each other’s strengths they have been able to widen the collective net of service and garner new funding sources to support ocean education for Hawai`i’s communities.

Speaker Biographies

Matt Claybaugh
Matt Claybaugh

Dr. Matt Claybaugh is President and CEO of Marimed Foundation located in Kāne`ohe Hawai`i. Marimed’s mission is “to provide ocean and land-based learning experiences that empower youth and families and strengthen communities.” Dr. Claybaugh has a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education and History from Northland College, Wisconsin; and a Master’s and Doctorate in American Studies from the University of Hawai`i, Mānoa. His dissertation, the Sea Change in American Sea Narratives: An Experiential Perspective,” explored the transformational nature of ocean voyaging.  He is also a licensed captain and has been with Marimed for the past 21 years.

Captain Bonnie
Captain Bonnie Kahape’a-Tanner

Captain Bonnie Kahape`a – Tanner is the founder and Executive Director of Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy, a Hawai`i-based nonprofit focused on teaching traditional navigation and voyaging culture and techniques to people of all ages. At the center of their culturally centered curriculum and programming is the double hulled, traditionally rigged canoe – Kānehūnāmoku. Captain Kahape`a-Tanner has a bachelor’s degree in Hawaiian Studies From University of Hawai`i, Hilo, a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology from Chaminade University, Honolulu; and another in Transformative Learning and Change from the California Institute of Integral Studies. She has crewed aboard SSV Tole Mour as a youth counselor and later as a sailing therapist.  Captain Kahape`a-Tanner is also a veteran Crew member of many historic voyages aboard Hawai`i’s voyaging canoes Makali`i and Hokule`a, recently completing a 30+ day leg of Hokule`a’s current world-wide voyage.

Captain Kalei Velasco is currently sailing as Chief Mate aboard Marimed Foundation’s vessel Makani Olu. Captain Velasco holds both his USCG 100 ton Masters and 200 ton Skipper License from the Royal Yachting Association of Auckland. He has worked aboard tour vessels around his home island of Kaua`i, skippered canoes in the south pacific for the Te Toki Voyaging Trust, and taught traditional, celestial, and instrument navigational techniques to people of all ages. Besides his many years instructing small boat sailing Captain Velasco is also a certified Open Water Scuba Instructor, First Responder and Eagle Scout.




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