UH Hilo international students stuff Christmas stockings for homeless keiki

UH Hilo international students and their host families donated various needed items—for example, toothbrushes, soap, crayons, coloring books, and toys—to fill 48 stockings for local homeless keiki.

Inset photo of students sorting through bags of goodies to be stuffed in stockings. Background image is of the finished stuffed stockings.
Top right, members of the UH Hilo International Student Association sort items to be stuffed into Christmas stockings for local homeless children, Dec. 4, 2021. The project was done in collaboration with Project Hawai‘i, a local nonprofit that will distribute the stockings to keiki over the holidays. Click photo to enlarge. (International Student Association)

By Susan Enright

For years, international students at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo have been matched with host families to help the students adjust to their new life in Hawai‘i. The Host Family Program helps the students develop a sense of ‘ohana (family) in Hilo.

But that program has been put on hold for the past couple of years due to the pandemic.

Jim Mellon
Jim Mellon

This year, Jim Mellon, director of the university’s international student services and intercultural education programs, decided to do something a little different and “flip the tables.”

“Instead of families in the community ‘adopting’ a student, the students ‘adopted’ kids in the community,” explains Mellon in an email.

The International Student Association partnered with Project Hawai‘i, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides services to over 1,600 individual homeless children annually across the islands of O‘ahu, Maui and Hawai‘i Island. The nonprofit is currently collecting holiday stockings for homeless children.

This year, UH Hilo international students and host families donated various needed items—for example, toothbrushes, soap, crayons, coloring books, and toys—to fill 48 of those stockings. The students stuffed the stockings on Saturday, Dec. 4, at Ainaola Park. Project Hawai‘i will distribute them to children in Hawai‘i Island homeless communities over the holidays.


Items to be placed in Christmas stockings are stacked on large tables: crayons, games, paints, boxes of colorful band aids, etc.
Jim Mellon, facing camera, helps organize items to be stuffed into Christmas stockings for local homeless keiki, Dec. 4, 2021. (International Student Association)

The weather was stormy on Saturday as a wintery “kona low” sweeps through the state, but the students stuck to the task. “Unfortunately, we were in a rush at the end because the rain started getting heavy and we didn’t take a group photo,” says Mellon.

Instead, like Santa’s elves, they were busy stuffing stockings.

On the Project Hawai‘i Facebook page, the nonprofit notes, “Even in the rainy weather the UH Hilo International students group is busy assembling stockings for our homeless keiki on Big Island.. mahalo for taking this weekend to make a difference in the lives of our homeless keiki.”


Jim Mellon and helper inspect the stuffed stockings.
Jim Mellon, standing at right, helps organize stockings, Dec. 4, 2021. (International Student Association)

Even in the rainy weather the UH Hilo International students group is busy assembling stockings for our homeless keiki on Big Island.. mahalo for taking this weekend to make a difference in the lives of our homeless keiki. Project Hawai’i, Inc. Christmas Wish program will sponsor over 650 homeless keiki on Big Island this year… your impact matters! #studentgroups #fillastocking #helpahomelesskeiki #hilohomeless #makingadifference #studentservices #fillingstockings #bethechange #servicepeoject #projecthawaiiinc @projecthawaiiinc @uhhilo @uhmanoanews


Despite the weather, the event was a grand success.

“It has been a great way for the international students to give back to the local community that has been so welcoming to them over the years,” says Mellon.

On Facebook, the UH Hilo International Student Association also posted a few photographs of the stocking-stuffing event.

“Mahalo to those who helped make Christmas stockings, as well as those who donated the items for the stockings,” posted the organizers. “48 stockings are now ready for the homeless children in Hilo.”

“Mahalo to those who donated items and to those who spent Saturday afternoon stuffing the stockings,” posted the group. “UH Hilo international students are always willing to give back to the local community as they pursue their degrees on the island #helpthehomelesskeiki #projecthawaiiinc #bethelight.”

UH Hilo International Student Association

International Student Association logo with interlocking hands.The International Student Association is UH Hilo’s student club for international students and others who are interested in other cultures and peoples. The club engages in social and recreational activities throughout the year, performs service to the campus and local community, and organizes educational events. Each year, the association presents International Nights, two nights of performances showcasing the many different cultures represented at UH Hilo.

UH Hilo offers a wide variety of programs for international students. For more information, visit the International Student Services website.


By Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.

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