Maui News

Kupu ‘Āina Corps Wins $15,000 in Bank’s Strong Communities Award

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The Kupu ‘Āina Corps provided natural resources and agriculture jobs to people in Hawaiʻi who were unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Screen shot: Kupu ‘Āina Corps video

The Kupu ‘Āina Corps project won the Urban category of the Strong Communities Award, hosted by The Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines.

Kupu ‘Āina Corps is a workforce development program that addresses the drastic effects of COVID-19 on Hawai‘i’s local economy by providing education, experience and support in natural resource management and agriculture enterprises.

The bank’s annual awards honor the projects, people and programs that promote local small business growth and retention within the 13 states and three US territories within the Federal Home Loan Bank’s Des Moines district. The Kupu ‘Āina Corps program is supported by American Savings Bank, an FHLB Des Moines member.


The winners were determined through a public voting process in early October. Seven finalists were judged in two categories: Urban and Rural. Kupu ‘Āina Corps will receive $15,000 for winning the urban category.

“At Kupu, we enable youth to care for the land while promoting green jobs that have a positive impact on the future,” said John Leong, Kupu Chief Executive Officer and co-founder. “Winning the Strong Communities Award is an honor and a recognition of the great work done by our staff, partners and the 350-plus program participants who grew their skills and capacities despite COVID and helped their communities to move forward and upward. The funding provided by this award will translate into new opportunities for a variety of people looking to start a career in sustainability.”

Ann Teranishi, American Savings Bank President and Chief Executive Officer, said: “American Savings Bank is proud to support Kupu ‘Āina Corps, a program that helped displaced workers at the height of unemployment during the pandemic.”


The other first-place winner, in the rural division, was the Salem (Missouri) R-80 Construction Trades Program. To learn more about the projects and see the full list of finalists, visit


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