Our Founder, Shim Kanazawa

Shim Kanazawa wearing many lei

Shim Kanazawa, Project Dana founder. December 29, 1915 – April 07, 2014.

“Shim” Kanazawa knew all about responsibility and taking care of others when she was a little girl growing up in Kamuela — and watching over ten younger children.

World War II brought about a situation that saw her rise to heights of compassion and caring. She was executive secretary to the Swedish honorary vice consul, which had interest in the plight of the Japanese in Hawaii who were interned during the war. Many families suffered hardships as a result of internment, and Shim Kanazawa was there to help them in their difficulties. It was a job that demanded long hours and selfless concern, and she performed her tasks without complaint and with skill. At the end of the war, the national headquarters of the American Red Cross awarded her for meritorious service on behalf of the nation.

Her next big project was to serve with the Commission on Children and Youth, helping lay the foundation for Hawaii’s family court system. She moved from young people to the elderly – her next major concern became the Commission on Aging, which let to a concentrated focus on the problems of the elderly with the establishment of the Policy Advisory Board for Elderly Affairs.

Through the years, accomplishments were many and varied. She was always concerned with the less fortunate, the young, the old, the disadvantaged. She served on many boards and commissions. She was chairperson of the Hawaii Summit 2011 Project to develop a strategic planning process to identify key issues concerning aging in Hawaii, chairperson of the Planned Giving for Campaign 2000, member of the Faith in Action National Advisory Committee supporting a national care-giving program, and chairperson of Hawaii’s White House Conference on Aging, among many other activities. Significantly she was founder and chairperson of Project Dana, developing an interfaith volunteer care-giving program for the frail and elderly.

Her selflessness has brought a number of awards and acknowledgments, including a Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Hawaii; the George Washington Honor Medal for Individual Achievement; Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge; and the Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation Award in recognition of her humanitarian work towards improving the quality of life for all people. There have been numerous other awards as well as numerous other projects.

Shim Kanazawa has been tireless in her work for other people. Her life is a reflection of a true dedication to worthy causes and needy people.

Here is a short interview about the founding of Project Dana:

Mrs. Shimeji Kanazawa personifies the importance of living life fully with meaning based on Buddhist and Japanese values. She has served as an active Board Member and Counselor in her later years for the Moiliili Hongwanji Mission and Advisor for the Moiliili Hongwanji’s Buddhist Women’s Association.

Known as Shim to everyone, she is Hawaii’s original pioneer of aging issues. She has been advocating for programs and services that help our senior population for more than 45 years. She has led the Hawaii delegation to the White House Conference on Aging 3 times held once every ten years. She served as a member of the National Council on Aging, a body that advises the President and U.S. Senate on aging issues.

She has served in official leadership capacities with such organizations as Kuakini Medical Center as its first woman chair, Aloha United Way, American Red Cross, Hawaii Public Broadcasting Authority’s Community Advisory Board, Director of Moiliili Community Center and the University of Hawaii’s Center on Aging.

As a member of the Commission of Children and Youth under Gov. Quinn, she chaired a committee on “Family Life and Law” and together with Judge Betty Vitousek, worked with the legislature on the establishment of the Family Court System in Hawaii.

In 1990, Mrs. Kanazawa was bestowed a prestigious honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the University of Hawaii. In 1999, she was selected as Living Treasure of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii. She is the recipient of numerous other awards and accolades from local and national organizations.

Shim has served all of Hawaii’s governors since Statehood in the development of aging policies and programs and is presently an honorary member of the Policy Advisory Board for Elder Affairs- a post bestowed upon her for life by then Governor of Hawaii, Ben Cayetano as well as the present Governor Neil Abercrombie.

Shim founded Project Dana while serving as a Trustee and Treasurer of the National Federation of Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, Inc. She chaired the Project Dana Advisory Council for 13 years and has a title of Chair Emerita of Project Dana.

For the work that Shim did during World War II as a liaison between the Japanese civilian population as the U.S. Military, Shim has been called the “Florence Nightingale of Hawaii.”

At age 98, “A Heart of Gold” best describes this woman, who has devoted her life to better Hawaii’s communities.

For more about Shimeji (Shim) Kanazawa, visit www.shimejikanazawa.com.