Editor’s Note: FOCUS is a multimedia series that highlights the diversity and depth of our community through interviews and photographs.
When Innocenta Sound stepped off the plane in Hawaii in 1989, she felt overwhelmed by Honolulu’s jungle of skyscrapers and concrete.
“I thought Hawaii [would have] coconut trees and people same as me — no, no,” she said. “I came out [of the plane] and all I see is the whole structure of the airport and I said, ‘Dad, I think we’re not in Hawaii. I think we’re somewhere else!'”
The city stood in stark contrast to Sound’s home island of Lukunor, an outer island in the state of Chuuk in Micronesia.
Since then, Sound has adjusted to living in Honolulu. But knowing how hard the transition can be, she works to help other Chuukese migrants as a community organizer and an interpreter.
With everything she does, Sound said there’s another term that better describes who she is.
“I call myself a community navigator because back home, a navigator has to be knowledgeable about everything in order to help the people on your crew,” she said.
Sound interprets for patients at Kokua Kalihi Valley, a community health center in Kalihi. Although she said overcoming the language barrier is important, breaking down stereotypes about people from Micronesia is another major challenge.
“A lot of our community are struggling,” she said. “But one thing I know for sure is that they really want the best for their children, they want to have a better life, and they will do anything to have that, even at the expense of working two, three jobs. And I think that it’s the same as all the other immigrants who came before us — they really try to work hard to make ends meet for their family.”
Civil Beat caught up with Sound when she was picking flowers in Kalihi for the opening of the clinic’s new wellness center. Listen to her story:
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