Service Learning Program

Service Learning Banner
Matching UHM’s Institutional Learning Outcomes, one of HELP’s Program Learning Outcomes is for students “to demonstrate personal development . . . (by) participation in activities with the larger community both on and off campus.” Service Learning is one way to fulfill this outcome and it is required of all HELP students.

On this page, you can read About Service Learning, find out How to get started, and see a list of possible Service Learning Opportunities.

About Service Learning

What is Service Learning?

Service Learning is a method by which students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of a community.

How will service learning help me learn and develop?

Service-Learning helps you…

  • discover the connection between your classroom studies and the real world
  • gain experiences and possible career skills that will enhance your resume
  • develop writing, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills
  • learn how to communicate across cultures and generations

What is the difference between service learning and volunteering?

Doing a service, such as a beach cleanup or helping children in an after-school program, are unpaid, volunteer activities. These types of service become “service-learning” when they require the student to prepare a critical reflection on each service in the form of an essay, presentation, or the completion of a survey questionnaire.


What kind of service can I participate in?

There are a wide variety of service options. Some are one-day events, such as  serving a meal at a homeless shelter or helping at a cultural festival, and others are term-long commitments, such as visiting the elderly at a retirement home or doing after-school activities with elementary school children.

Please note: While we would like you to be able use both listening and speaking skills in English during the activities, you may not always be required to speak with others; for example, you may be asked to put away books in a school library by yourself. For all activities, you will have to listen to instructions in English. Then, it is your responsibility to try to speak with those you meet because people may think you cannot speak much English since you are an ESL student.


How many hours of service is required?

Every student is required to serve a minimum of six hours per 8-week term. HELP encourages students to serve more hours and explore as many opportunities as possible during their time in Hawaii.


What proof of the hours of service can I show to other educational institutions or an employer?

At the end of each term, your service learning projects and hours will be listed on your grade report. We can also provide a certified letter of your projects and a certificate of your service learning hours by request.


How do I get started?

There are three (3) steps in completing the service-learning requirement:

1.  Choose  

During the first week of the term, select a service-learning activity that is good for you. If you have any questions about these options, please speak with the service learning coordinator. When you are ready, please sign up for at least 6 hours of service learning at two different agencies. You will need to sign up for your first service by the beginning of the second week of the term. If you need more hours during the term, please see the coordinator for more choices.

2.  Serve   

Service learning is an important part of your studies at HELP. You will do some volunteer work at a place not far from the university. You will be working with other HELP students, and you will need to work closely and communicate with your service learning organization. Please do your best because your organization will rely on you.

3.  Reflect  

During and after your service learning, you will be asked to learn about the organization that you are helping, write about your experiences, and/or give a presentation. These writing projects and presentations are an important step in service learning. They will help you to understand the value of your service learning while learning to express yourself in English. At the end of the term, you will be required to fill out a service learning survey in which you will reflect on the projects you did for the term.

Read more about the Service Learning program and how to sign up here:
[ Service Learning Program Introduction and Instructions (Updated Fall 2016) ]




*American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA)

[For 200-level or higher]

The American Heart Association is hard at work to make an impact on your life by empowering you and your loved ones to live healthier lives and enjoy more peace of mind about heart disease and stroke, our No. 1 and No. 5 killers.

DUTIES: Help with doing light office work or help with AHA/ASA events, making booklets, computer data entry, translating (written materials) or Assist with special events (e.g. Heart Ball, Good Life Expo).


*Hawaii Bicycling League (HBL)

[For 200-level and higher]

Their ‘Mission’ is to enable more people to ride bicycles for health, recreation, and transportation through advocacy, education, and events. Each year HBL hosts several large events, like the Honolulu Century Ride and Haleiwa Metric Century, and also hold numerous smaller events such as Bike Month and Oahu Bike Count. As Oahu’s oldest and largest cycling organization, Hawaii Bicycling League has a strong voice with local and state agencies. We advocate for positive changes that will help make Hawaii a cycling paradise and encourage more people to ride bicycles.

DUTIES: Help with light office work, such as stuff envelopes, make membership kits, mail member cards, organize inventory, etc. or Assist with special events (e.g. Haleiwa Metric Century Ride, Century Bike Ride).


Hokulani Elementary

[For 200-level or higher]

The Parent Community Networking Center (PCNC) facilitator is a part-time employee whose function is to serve as a liaison between the school and the parents and community. The facilitator initiates projects and activities which support the school’s mission by facilitating the involvement of parents and other role groups concerned about the school’s programs. Much of the PCNC facilitator’s job is spent on activities, which support the classroom teacher, and on activities which enhance communication between the school and parents.

DUTIES: Teacher’s Aide: Assist the teacher in the classroom with various duties/Adult Supervisor during lunch: Monitor (watch) and supervise children during lunch hour (help open milk cartons or cut food into small pieces; keep the children quiet); Escort and supervise children in play area.

[Required: Orientation with PCNC Coordinator]


*Ka Papa Loʻi o Kanewai

Volunteer Opportunities

[For All levels]

First Saturdays are open to anyone in the community looking for an opportunity to experience traditional farming methods, converse with Hawaiian Language speakers, talk story with practitioners, kuʻi ʻai, kuʻi ka imu, and enjoy the day with family and friends.

DUTIES: Help ‘malama’ (care for) the loʻi (taro patch) by clearing and preparing the loʻi, Assist the staff with cleaning the taro, or help clear out Manoa Stream.

[Required: Waiver form]


*Lunalilo Home

[For 200-level or higher]

Established by the trust of King William Charles Lunalilo, the sixth reigning monarch of Hawaiʻi, Lunalilo Home’s mission is to provide respectful, quality, compassionate and caring services for disadvantaged kupuna of Hawaiian ancestry. Today, we serve kupuna of Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian ancestry in a beautiful ʻohana setting.

DUTIES: Assist with activities and games and have conversations with seniors at the Adult Day Care Center.

[Required: Orientation with Director of ADC; Application form]


*Lyon Arboretum

Volunteer at Lyon Arboretum

[For All levels]

Are you interested in plants and people? The Harold L. Lyon Arboretum offers a numerous volunteer opportunities in the areas of educational programming, conservation, propagation, garden maintenance, and more. You can have a fulfilling experience while helping to further our mission of education and to the broader community and supporting education service activities for a diverse audience. Some of the great benefits of being a volunteer at Lyon Arboretum is serving your community and nature, working in a beautiful environment and the joy of working with and meeting people with similar interests.

DUTIES: Volunteers will assist arboretum staff members with garden trail maintenance, invasive plant removal, or planting native Hawaiian plants.

[Required: Waiver form]


*Make-A-Wish Hawaii

[For 300-level or higher]

Every year, there are about 100 keiki in our islands newly-diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition. It is our vision to grant the wish of every eligible child. Learn about the power of a wish come true and why medical professionals are prescribing it as good medicine.


We grant wishes to children in Hawaii battling life-threatening medical conditions. Many of our wish kids overcome their illnesses and lead long, healthy lives.

Though we are part of the world’s largest wish-granting organization, we operate locally as an independent 501(c)3. Monies raised in our state stay in our state.

We are headquartered in Honolulu with a staff of 30, and we rely on our 400 statewide volunteers to make wishes happen.

Unlike most nonprofits, we are 100% privately funded, which means wishes are entirely backed by our community.

We are among the busiest chapters in the nation with the unique privilege of sharing our beautiful islands with more than 1,000 families on wishes to see Hawaii each year. We engage more than 200 hospitality businesses to fulfill these incoming travel wishes.

DUTIES: Help man the front desk (greet visitors to MAW office) or other office duties (as needed).


*Manoa Cottage

[For 200-level or higher]

Manoa Cottage prides themselves on providing exceptional care administered by a team highly trained and professional and (most importantly) caring staff. Certified Nurse Aides provide 24/7 assistance with activities of daily living. Licensed nurses work with a team of health care professionals to attend to the medical needs of each individual resident. The activities and events coordinators plan daily activities, special events and resident outings according to the wishes and abilities of the individual. They accept residents with a wide range of care needs; from fully ambulatory (Assisted Living Level) to Intermediate Care (Nursing Home Level). They also encourage and support “aging in place” which allows the residents to remain at Manoa Cottage should their level of care increase.

DUTIES: Assist director with activities – exercise & games with the seniors; Share conversation with the residents.


*YWCA Laniakea (Young Women’s Christian Association)

[For 300-level or higher]


Laniākea literally translated means ‘open skies’ or ‘wide horizons.’ This name is well-suited given both the open-air design of the building, and our mission of opening doors for women. The open-air corridors, courtyard and pool provide a Hawaiian sense of respite within the bustling business district of downtown Honolulu. Laniākea is home to an era of tremendous social awareness and change in Hawai‘i. Its history inspires generations of women to rededicate themselves to the cause of community service. Laniākea was designed by renowned female architect, Julia Morgan. Ms. Morgan is best known for designing Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California. She was the first female architect to design a public building on O‘ahu. Ms. Morgan designed over 700 buildings in her career and listed Laniākea among her top 10 favorite projects.



Dress for Success® Honolulu

Health & Wellness Classes

Patsy T. Mink Center for Business and Leadership

DUTIES: Assist with a variety of duties, such as doing light office work, handling donations, greeting members, etc.

[Required: Orientation with Member Services Manager (at YWCA); Application form]



*Great Aloha Run

Great Aloha Run – Volunteer

[For All levels]

Enjoy and partake in one of the nation’s premiere Sports Health & Fitness Expos! The Kaiser Permanente Great Aloha Run Sports Health & Fitness Expo (KPGAR) encourages a healthy and active lifestyle. The KPGAR Expo is the central location where more than 20,000+ race participants come to pick up their race packets, get last minute running gear and apparel and socialize with other fit-minded runners! Join us!

DUTIES: Assist with stuffing race packets for the race participants.


*Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) – Wizard’s Competition

[*For Japanese nationals only]


Japan Wizards Competition is a challenging, fun-filled academic team competition for Hawaii’s high school students that tests students’ general knowledge of Japan and Japan-related fields. The competition is sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH), a nonprofit, nonpartisan, 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt organization with the mission of promoting understanding and friendship between the peoples of the United States and Japan through the unique and special perspective of Hawaii.

DUTIES: Keep student competitors occupied with Japanese activities in-between their study sessions (e.g. karuta, origami-making, gyotaku, bingo, etc.)




Here are other agencies to contact on your own if you want to do other types of volunteering.


*Arts at Mark’s Garage

We’re a collaborative gallery, performance and office space for businesses and nonprofit organizations, working to transform downtown Honolulu with the power of the arts.



Be the smiling face that greets our visitors, answers the main Marks phone line, enjoy the current gallery exhibition, and possibly help with sales! Meet all kinds of interesting people.

Usually Saturdays, from noon to 2:30pm, or 2:30 to 5pm. Volunteers must not be afraid of answering phones or speaking with people; multitasking and self-amusement abilities recommended.


Help manage The ARTS at Marks during the exciting First Friday monthly arts event, as the streets fill with people and the galleries become a nonstop parade of all types.

Every First Friday of the month, from 4 to 7pm, or 7 to 10pm. Volunteers must be able to stand throughout shift, assisting with our reception desk, front door clicker, or food and beverage stands.


Join us as we take down or install exhibitions about every thirty days. Assist with all sorts of artists and their work, and learn more about our local working art scene.

Usually Sunday and Monday, from 10am to 6pm, in 2-hour shifts. Volunteers must be able to use tools, be willing to paint, climb ladders, lift materials, hammer, and so forth. Hopefully not too clumsy!


*Hawaii Foodbank

Hawaii Foodbank – Volunteer Opportunities

[For 200- level or higher]

  • (Ongoing) Dry Salvage Food Sorters
  • (January-April) Annual Food Drive
  • (April/May) The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) (a brand new program by the USDA) – Hawaii Foodbank is one of only 7 in the nation that’s been chosen to participate. Because our seniors, age 60 and older, are a large segment of the population affected by hunger, due to living on fixed incomes and having rising medical costs, this program helps supplement their monthly groceries with healthier choice food items than they might otherwise have the opportunity to buy.
  • (April) Official Food Drive Day/Bag Up Hunger
  • (November –January) Check-out Hunger Campaign
  • (December) Ward Village Trolley Elves

[Required: Application Form ]


*Hoʻoulu ʻĀina

Hoʻoulu ʻĀina Volunteer Opportunities

Hoʻoulu ʻĀina is a welcoming place of refuge where people of all cultures sustain and propagate the connections between the health of the land and the health of the people.


Since 2004, Kokua Kalihi Valley (KKV) has been stewarding and sustainably developing 100 acres in the back of Kalihi Valley. Dedicated to cultural education and community transformation, this land was named Hoʻoulu ʻĀina, meaning “to grow the land” and “to grow because of the land,” based on the value that the health of the land and the health of the people are one.

Hoʻoulu ʻĀina is excited to host thousands of committed volunteers who help us with our organic reforestation practices, pā pōhaku builds, garden beds and many other mālama ʻāina endeavors. Once laden with conflict and hurt, volunteers help to heal this ‘āina and together we breath life back into our ahupuaʻa. To know what to bring for any of the workdays below, check out our Workday Checklist page (on website).

  • Community Work Day (3rd Saturday of the Month)
  • Community Work Day (Every Wednesday)
  • Growing Farmers (Every Thursday)


*The Institute for Human Services (IHS)

IHS – Volunteer Opportunities

[For 200- level or higher]

We are the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive human services agency focused exclusively on ending and preventing homelessness in Hawaii.

Meeting people where they are – geographically, spiritually and emotionally – is the nature of our homeless outreach program.

We provide our community with a team of highly trained Outreach Specialists that move freely between the streets and shelter facilities. They offer services to unsheltered homeless persons living on the streets and within encampments.

From understanding individual challenges in each person’ s life, to symptoms of loss and trauma to assessing root causes and factors that contribute to homelessness – IHS Outreach Specialists persist in developing relationships and enhancing motivation to redevelop trust, provide support and stabilization, and identify pathways into housing. By consistently engaging unsheltered clients as frequently as necessary, and meeting simple, immediate needs for healthcare, food, or transportation; clients become more receptive to shelter and/or housing.

With the help and support of a psychiatrist, nurses and case managers, IHS Outreach Specialists are able to assess and navigate Hawaii’s most vulnerable clients to accessing the healthcare and housing that they need.

IHS volunteers currently:

  • Sponsor and serve meals
  • Provide administrative support
  • Assist with children programs, including homework club and enrichment activities
  • Assist with employment services, including job searches, ESL courses, and resume building
  • Upkeep our Kokua Corner Thrift Shop
  • Provide professional skills through internships and practicums in, but not limited to the following areas: clinical social work, nursing, and non-profit management

[Required: Application Form/Waiver]


*River of Life Mission

Volunteer at River of Life Mission


We have a great group of volunteers at the mission. Some have been with us more than 20 years. One of our most loved volunteers is in his eighties. However, we really need to recruit some new volunteers, as several of our retiree volunteers are truly going to retire for health reasons. He cuts veggies & makes sandwiches faster than you could possibly imagine. Most days 25 – 30 volunteers come for a couple of hours.

“What Can I Do to Help?”

We assign volunteers where we most need help that day. If a volunteer comes the same day & time each week, they can work in the area they prefer. If you request kitchen duty, we rarely say “no”.

Volunteer Areas & What to Expect

  • Kitchen: Washing and cutting veggies, making salads, opening cans, mixing juice, cutting pies n cakes, making rice, putting food on plates, frying rice, cleaning steam table, washing pots, etc. Free job training.
  • Dining Room: Putting breakfast pastries on trays, pouring cereal, making milk, bagging trash, pouring drinks, wiping tables, serving lunch plates, taking trash out, wrapping napkins around forks, greeting the guests, smiling, chatting, “How are you? God Bless You.” We show you how.
  • Donations: Sorting, sizing, hanging clothing. Sorting household goods & hygienic products. Cutting up rejects into cleaning rags.
  • Laundry: Washing, drying, folding kitchen towels, aprons & uniforms from chocolate factory. Washing, drying, folding towels used by guests for showers.
  • Cleaning: Spraying disinfectant on & scrubbing tables & chairs. Sweeping & wet mopping floors. Cleaning mop buckets & trash cans. Normal kitchen & bathroom type cleaning. Training provided.


*Waikiki Aquarium

Waikiki Aquarium – Volunteer Opportunities

[For 200-level and higher]

Special Projects : The Waikīkī Aquarium Volunteer center is open to supporting local schools and community groups by partnering on special projects. Proposals are approved on an individual basis and are up to the discretion of the Volunteer Program Coordinator and supporting staff.

Past special projects proposals submitted to the Volunteer Center include:

  • Interactive marine face-whole photo board
  • Paper Shredding
  • Marine themed holiday decorations completed by school students
  • Creative marine themed large-scale lawn decorations

Special Events: Many events hosted by the Waikīkī Aquarium would not be possible without the time and energy of dedicated volunteers. Special Events volunteers assist at Aquarium functions throughout the year. Special Event crews help in various capacities such as set-up, registration, craft and activity tables, scrip sales, food booths, guest greeting, and much more! All events support the Waikiki Aquarium’s mission.

Our annual events include:

  • International Koi Show (February)
  • Mauka to Makai (Earth Day Celebration) (April)
  • Ke Kani O Ke Kai Summer Concert Series (June-August)
  • Family Night (August)
  • FOWA – Friends of Waikiki Aquarium Members’ Night
  • Invasive Algae clean-ups, Beach clean-ups, Gift shop volunteer

Other: Invasive Algae Clean-up; Beach Clean-up; Gift Shop Volunteer

[Required: Application form]