For nine months, Cassandra Kamealoha lived at the Onemalu transitional housing facility at Barbers Point with her five children after she separated from her husband in 2019.
Under a rent-to-work subsidy program, they moved into a three-bedroom townhouse in Waianae prior to the holiday season in 2019.
Going through a divorce and the COVID-19 pandemic this year has put a strain on her finances. Kamealoha, 32, who currently works on commission as a nail technician apprentice at Deluxe Nails & Spa in Waianae, said there has been a significant decrease in clients. “People are not getting nail services because they can’t afford it.”
Helping Hands Hawaii has partnered with the Honolulu Star- Advertiser and First Hawaiian Bank for the annual Good Neighbor Fund campaign to help families in need like Kamealoha’s during the holiday season. The campaign assists the agency’s various programs that include the non-profit’s Adopt A Family Program.
Born and raised on Maui, Kamealoha previously worked full-time as a certified nursing assistant but took a break after the death of a client took an emotional toll on her. When she returned, she was unable to secure full-time hours.
Her love of makeup and nails prompted her to take an online course and she was eventually hired as a nail technician apprentice at Deluxe Nails. “I was able to express my creativity,” Kamealoha said, adding she is working toward her certification.
She works six days a week at the salon and alternates child care with her husband every other week. “We’ve maintained our friendship and always put the children first,” she said.
During her time with their children, Kamealoha juggles their varying school schedules. She takes her 7-year-old son, Brennox Kamealoha, to work with her with his iPad in tow because he is distance learning. Kamealoha drops off her 14-year-old son, Bishop Marquez, at school twice a week and 10-year-old son, Baeyin Shelton-Cummings, five days a week for in-person classes. Her two younger children, 5-year-old Brooklynn-Rose Kamealoha and 3-year-old Bostyn Kamealoha are dropped off at day care at Kamaaina Kids.
It’s a madhouse, she said.
Her in-laws chip in with picking up her two younger children and her grandmother also helps cook dinner and with grocery shopping.
Owner Nam Phan of Deluxe Nails said the salon, like hundreds of businesses across the state, has taken a substantial hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re not busy anymore.”
He praised Kamealoha for juggling work and family responsibilities as a single mother. “She work hard,” he said.
The busy mother of five said there are times where she is barely covering the monthly bills. The children’s father, who is unemployed, is also facing financial struggles.
“I just want my kids to be happy, especially since we’re going through a divorce,” she added as her voice wavered with emotion. “Unfortunately, financially I can’t get all of their needs met.”
For the holiday season, their holiday wish list includes new bed sheets, clothes and shoes for the family and kitchenware. Bikes and helmets are also on the family’s wish list.
Brooklynn-Rose also likes L.O.L Surprise and Barbie dolls and books, and Bostyn likes Paw Patrol and sand toys. On Baeyin and Brennox’s wish list are Fortnite and Avengers toys, Hot Wheels and Pokemon cards, and Bishop asked for a pair of headphones.