Katheryn Clayton-Shay lived in Louisiana and Hawaii before moving to Ethiopia with one of her daughters, Pumehana. In Ethiopia, Katheryn put her 25 years of teaching experience to good use by training local teachers on best educational practices for rural settings.
Now, Katheryn lives in Oakland and works as a behavioral therapist. She is also one of FII’s partner families. Pumehana, now 14, and a granddaughter live with her, while the rest of the family is still in Hawaii.
“Before we moved to California, we used to always have many friends and family relatives around,” she says. “In Louisiana, you didn’t think twice about baking a pie and bringing it to a neighbor unannounced. In Hawaii, I knew all of my children’s friends and their parents. It was a tight-knit community. Here in Oakland things are quieter for us, and my daughter has definitely felt the difference. It doesn’t help that I don’t have much time to spend with her, since I stay busy with my work obligations and caring for my granddaughter.”
Wanting to spend quality time with Pumehana is what motivated her to apply for an FII’s Family Time grant.
Family Time funds are available to partnering families and meant to allow families to enhance their quality time with each other. FII recognizes that critical role personal foundational relationships play in our wellbeing.
This small, one-time investment allowed Katheryn to purchase camping gear and two tickets to Reggae by the River, a four-day arts and music Reggae festival sponsored by Mateel Community Center, where she regularly volunteers. To finance the rest of the costs, Katheryn and Pumehana volunteered at the festival’s kitchen, serving nearly 2,500 staff, medics, and traffic personnel.
And they brought friends.
“I wanted to replicate the extended family experience we once knew,” Katheryn explains. “That’s how I got the idea to ask other fellow Hawaiian transplants to sign up to volunteer and attend the festival with us. We ended up being twelve-people strong!”
How did Pumehana enjoy it? “She loved it,” Katheryn says. “She even made some bracelets and sold them informally to other fellow campers. Next year she wants to actually man her own vendor stand. And I’ll be right there with her.”
Katheryn is part of Oakland Rising 600, a Family Independence Initiative cohort. “There is also an aspect of camaraderie about FII that we like,” Katheryn says about her group. “We are older folks, so we want to pass on what has worked for us to others.”
FII partners with families to gather data and stories to learn about what they are doing to improve their lives. Families are able to track their own progress, as well as share their insights with other families.
“I’m glad to be part of a group and an organization that are doing good things,” she says. “I’ve always been attracted to entrepreneurs and risk-takers, because you can be inspired by and learn from them.”