Barbara was born and raised on the island of Moloka‘i in the Hawaiian homestead community of Ho'olehua.
As a middle child in a family of five, she was cared for by her parents, relatives, neighbors, and the broader community -- "raised by the village" was the reality back then. Climbing trees, camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities defined her lifestyle. Barbara attended Molokaʻi Elementary School, walking just under a mile to and from school each day, although more likely than not, someone would stop along the way to give the keiki a ride.
At the ripe age of 12, Barbara attended the Kamehameha Schools on Oʻahu as a boarder. Together with several siblings and cousins, being in the dorms was like being in an extended ‘ohana. Her time at Kamehameha broadened her world view significantly and helped to shape her, just as living on Moloka‘i did.
Barbara attended the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa during the time of the “Hawaiian Renaissance,” yet another impactful period of her life. She graduated with a B.A. in Sociology in 1972 and then obtained a Master’s degree in Social Work in 1975, before returning to Moloka‘i to “give back” to the village that raised her. For the next 37 years, Barbara worked at the Liliʻuokalani Children’s Center – Moloka‘i Unit, first as a social worker for six years, then as unit manager.
In November 2012, Barbara began her tenure as deputy director for the Children’s Center, leading and facilitating the agency’s program work statewide to assure high levels of practice and service that are consistent with our mission, in keeping with our vision of healthy children, strong families and caring communities, and honoring the culture and legacy of our Queen. Revising and updating program manuals and policies, encouraging and supporting staff development opportunities, and continuing improvement of our evaluation methods and practices are examples of administrative efforts to support the agency’s direct service efforts.
Some of Barbara’s community service activities on Molokaʻi have included working with Hale Ho’omalu (domestic violence shelter), Hale Ho’okupa’a (substance abuse outpatient program), Moloka‘i Health Foundation, Na Makua Pūnana Leo O Moloka‘i, and statewide programs such as the Hawaiian Homes Commission, Native Hawaiian Sovereignty Advisory Council, Hawai‘i Community Foundation, and the Diocesan Strategic Planning Taskforce for the Episcopal Church in Hawai‘i. She currently serves on the board of directors for Ho’okako’o Corporation.
Barbara currently serves as Senior Advisor to the Chief Program Officer.