A once-homeless farming family takes care of the plants, animals and people: Kauai Now

A once-homeless farming family takes care of the plants, animals and people: Kauai Now

The Wong Family – Kayala, Kylie, Kaiwi, Christy, and Leilana. Photo: Scott Junker/Kauai Now

A formerly homeless family is building a safe space for their community, on a four-acre plot of land nestled deep in the wooded farmlands of Wailuā on the east side of Kaua‘i.

There, Christy Wong and her three daughters — Kaiwi, Kylie and Leilana — run the non-profit Kauai Animal Education Farm to preserve Hawaiian culture and connection to the land.

The farm is a clearinghouse and habitat for unwanted animals on the Garden Isle. Wong and her family take in approximately 30 animals a month while trying to find new homes for a similar number. It hosts an average of 170 animals, representing about 19 species, at any given time.

Kauai Animal Education Farm also organizes volunteer days, tours, school enrichment programs and more. Visitors can spend time with traditional farm animals such as chickens, pigs, goats and horses, as well as more exotic creatures such as chinchillas, turtles, rabbits and colorful birds. The property is also covered in dozens of fruit trees and native plants.

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It all started as a hobbyist in the Wongs’ backyard over 10 years ago.

Keala Wong feeds a hibiscus flower to a turtle. Photo: Scott Junker/Kauai Now

“We were homeschooling, and instead of buying our kids electronics, we bought them animals,” Christy said. “We saw the important connection between the two and how easily they could connect their curriculum to using animals, using agriculture, using all of these conversations.”

Word spread and soon the Wongs were the caretakers of 100 castaways. But disaster struck when Christie’s then-husband lost his job due to illness.

The Wongs had to rehome dozens of animals that were in their care. They lost their home and experienced a long period of recurrent homelessness. At various times they lived out of a truck with friends and family in Oregon.

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“Imagine being homeless, being in your car. You have three little kids and you don’t know where you’re going to sleep that night,” Christie said.

While living in Oregon, Christie experienced something that changed the direction of her life.

“I’ve seen these 100-year-old farms, and how productive and efficient they are. The community has thrived,” she said.

The seeds of what would become the Kauai Animal Education Ranch were planted.

Rabbits are among the many beloved creatures at Kauai Animal Education Farm. Photo: Scott Junker/Kauai Now
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“It sparked a whole idea of: ‘What if we took all the things we did right, combined some new things and did better?’ What if we turned it into a nonprofit? What if we created services to improve the well-being of our people with a focus on mental health, a focus on On stewardship, focusing on food security?” Christie continued. “[What if we focused on]all of these elements in a way that uses the land, saves animals, perpetuates culture, and provides resources for our community?”

Christie then returned to Kauai, determined to turn her vision into reality. Her efforts have earned her recognition from crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, which named Christie a “GoFundMe Hero” last summer. The title boosts its profile on the site with a dedicated webpage and podcast episode.

“Kristy’s story moved us because she had a deep commitment to caring for her community and using her passions to improve the well-being of the people and animals around her,” GoFundMe spokesperson Ari Romeo said.

Christy’s eldest daughter, Leilana Bailliu, is raising her baby girl, Kayala, on a breeding farm on Kauai.

“Despite everything we’ve been through, and what we’ve built today, it can never stop,” Bilyeu said. “It has to continue. Not just for the sake of the animals, but for our family and our community — to have this place where people and animals come.”

To make a GoFundMe donation to the Kauai Breeding Farm, click here.

    (Tags for translation) Christy Wong 

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