Photo courtesy of the Maui Ocean Center

There’s a lot of truth to the adage: “It’s better to give than to receive.” As we approach the holiday season, it’s especially important to keep this in mind. 

There are, of course, plenty of local organizations and nonprofits that could use our financial support. But in addition, we can also give the gift of our time and energy.

Find an organization that’s close to your family’s heart and volunteer to help. For many, that involves animals — whether it’s walking dogs at the Maui Humane Society (attend a New Volunteer Orientation online at or perhaps it’s helping the state’s beloved honu, a.k.a. green sea turtles. 

The Marine Institute at Maui Ocean Center is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that rescues and rehabilitates sea turtles from throughout the state. It aims to ensure the survival of both sea turtles and coral reefs in Hawai‘i through conservation efforts, education, and outreach. 

Last year, the nonprofit’s two staff members and 36 interns and volunteers helped 231 stranded sea turtles — ranging in weight from about 8 pounds to 290 pounds — from Maui, Oahu, and Hawai‘i Island. Injuries included sea turtles that were hit by a boat, bit by a shark, and stuck in rocks or sand.

Most honu injuries are fishing-related, such as ingesting a hook, so that led the Marine Institute to start a Fishing Line Recycling Program throughout Maui. However, their initiatives don’t stop there. Through their “Keiki o ke Kai” program, which introduces students to diverse marine science and ocean conservation topics, middle and high school students assisted with sea turtle husbandry, environmental stewardship and much more. 

Additionally, the Marine Institute taught students throughout Maui County — from upcountry at Kula Elementary School to across Ma‘ālaea Harbor at Kihei Charter School. Lessons focused on sea turtle biology and ecology, marine debris and how we can all work together to help protect our island home. 

The Marine Institute’s “Honu Hero” Beach Cleanup Program gives both Maui residents and visitors a chance to help keep our shoreline clean. So far, more than 40,000 pieces of debris have been collected. 

Along with volunteering, you can help honu this holiday season by virtual adoption with a tax-deductible donation. For more information, visit