Laie local Randell Mahe said the tight-knit community she was raised in taught her to be selfless, sympathetic and supportive. Her passion for people is what she said drove her to social work, and her friends described her as essential for their survival.
Mahe, a senior majoring in social work, described growing up in Laie as “the best thing ever” because of the strong influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Laie and its cultural values and traditions. Mahe said much of her identity stems from the place she calls home.
“Here in the community, we are very tight. We consider all of our neighbors as family.”
Mahe said Laie has been a source of both pride and comfort, and she learned from a young age how powerful a supportive community could be. “We share each other’s losses just as much as we do our successes.”
She continued, “When there’s a loss of a loved one in the community, we all grieve, and when there are graduates celebrating their senior year without a graduation ceremony, we throw parades and support them in the best way we know how.”
Despite Laie’s size and the limited amount of educational and career opportunities here, Mahe said the Laie community has never run low on love, respect and support. She said, “This has been going on for years. I’ve always known my community to be very supportive and very loving.”
A home away from home
As a BYU–Hawaii student, Mahe said her years at the university have allowed her to open up her family’s home to those she meets at school. Mahe said she hopes to pass on the Laie community’s values to the people she meets from all around the world.
She said, “I’ve always had a passion for making people feel at home, and living seconds away from the school has allowed me to do that.”
Since attending BYUH, Mahe said she has come to appreciate the values instilled in her as a young girl. She said, “I didn’t realize a lot of the things I’d learned from my community until I came to BYUH, and that’s because I was able to put those lessons to use.”
Whenever Mahe would meet new students at school, she said she would feel compelled to invite them to her house. “Coming from Laie, that’s just what everyone does: Bring people into our homes to meet our families and have dinner.”
Mahe said she grew up having her home filled with friends and family, and because of those experiences, she said she developed a strong bond with those individuals. “They’re people I could go to whenever I was struggling, so when I attended BYUH, I felt like I had to do those same things.
“The least I could do is share with people the blessings of my home,” she continued. Mahe said she was able to bring students to her home, and the students soon became part of the family.
Tainui Johnston, a senior from New Zealand majoring in communications and a friend of Mahe’s, explained how having people like Mahe as a friend is “essential for mental survival,” and she has a “positive light” about her every day. Describing his friendship with Mahe, Johnston said, “She always is trying to make sure she is in a happy mood and keeps others in a happy mood. It takes true humility to try to have fun in everything and see the brighter side.”
Mahe praised international students who travel thousands of miles away from their homes. She said, “I’ve never experienced that. I’ve always had such a respect for students who get themselves outside of their comfort zones and do things they’ve never done before in their life.”
Mahe said awareness of the students at BYUH motivates her to make them feel at home in Laie. She said she hopes the students she’s met at BYUH feel they have a place to go to feel at home if they’re feeling homesick.
In the future, Mahe said her dream is to raise her family in Laie and for her children to attend BYUH. “I’ve had so many wonderful experiences here,” she said.
Bridging cultural divides
In the future, Mahe said she hopes BYUH students will get to know Laie’s community and local members. Once they do, she said, their entire BYUH experience will change.
The Laie community members cherish their cultural roots and love sharing their stories with those who come as visitors, Mahe said. “I think it just starts with the small and simple things. If you’re going to the shopping center, say Hi to the locals.”
Mahe said something as small as a smile can help bridge the gap between the community and the students at BYUH.
“We’re surrounded by so many great people who know exactly how to support each other in times of need. I just hope sooner or later, we do the things necessary to help each other out and learn about one another’s stories and backgrounds.”
A passion for people
Growing up in a large family, Mahe said she was instantly drawn to social work. “I’ve developed such a great love and passion for taking care of children.”
Mahe praised the social work program at BYUH and said the classes challenged her emotionally and mentally. “The social work program helps us be vulnerable with one another,” Mahe said adding it was difficult for her to open up emotionally in classes, but said stepping outside of her comfort zone helped her learn more about her strengths and weaknesses.
Faryn Taotafa, a recent graduate from California, described Mahe as loyal, passionate, and committed. Taotafa said she admires Mahe’s ability to empathize with everyone she meets and her willingness to help others.
Taotafa said, “She is studying social work right now, and I believe she has exactly what is needed for that profession. In the year I lived with her, I learned so much about respect, love, service and generosity.”
Mahe has applied to Utah Valley University to work on her master’s degree and is interning at Kahuku Hospital.
She described how working in the medical social work field has helped her realize how much she loves helping people. In the future, she said her goal is to work with child welfare services.
When it comes to graduation, Mahe said every freshman looks forward to the day of the graduation ceremony. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mahe learned she wouldn’t have one. “I think it broke a lot of our hearts, but I’m honestly not too bummed about it because I can definitely say I’ve had such a great experience at BYUH. That’s enough for me.”