Friends from BYU–Hawaii Join Forces to Make a Difference
Roger Brown | University Relations | 24 August 2012
Akin Clothing, a company started by a BYU–Hawaii student, and Chapters of Hope, a non-profit organization of Deseret Book, teamed up this summer to provide school uniforms and books to children in Tuvalu and Samoa.
Ben Howells and Brad Holden have been friends since they met while attending BYU–Hawaii. While in school, Holden helped advertise for the business that Howells started as a student. The business was Akin Clothing, a company that sells clothing to provide school uniforms to underprivileged children around the world. Akin has received a lot of attention lately by virtue of a generous exchange made by Howells at the most recent business plan competition on campus.
Holden graduated in 2011, but the two have remained in contact. Howells told Holden how he was making plans to travel to Tuvalu to provide a set of uniforms for children at a new preschool on the island, and Holden saw an opportunity. Upon graduation, Holden started working at Deseret Book in Salt Lake City, Utah. Deseret Book has a non-profit charity organization, Chapters of Hope, that provides schoolbooks for underprivileged children. Holden proposed a team-up of the two organizations to the executives at Deseret Book, and was given the authority to proceed.
Before long, the two friends were headed to Tuvalu, loaded with the school supplies. When they arrived, they were greeted with a warm reception and were favored with a cultural celebration in honor of the gift given to the children of this tiny island community.
“The overall feeling was so positive; the children came to greet us in their traditional attire, and we were honored guests in a meeting with the village elders,” said Holden. “It was an amazing experience.”
After their work was done in Tuvalu, the pair and their sponsoring organizations traveled to Samoa to repeat their work at another school. They were joined there by Kap Te‘o Tafiti, BYU–Hawaii alumnus and star of the Polynesian Cultural Center’s Samoan Village show. The uniforms and books were being donated in Kap’s home village of Faititi.
“When they arrived, they were so impressed with the culture, how it gives life to my village,” said Tafiti. “We need more people like this, who are willing to recognize that there are people who are less fortunate, and actually do something about it. Education can be hindered simply because some things are not available, and school uniforms and materials mean more than what they are – they provide opportunities for education.”
Because the project was so successful, both Akin Clothing and Chapters of Hope are planning future ventures together. And it all started with a friendship from BYU–Hawaii. They truly are what President David O. McKay articulated as “Genuine Gold.”Photos courtesy of Brad Holden.