By Estefania Magdalena | Staff Writer
Brianna Tomlinson (24) and Gilson Fernandes Dos Santos Jr. (27) met in Oahʻu and became friends who share parties, lunches, hikes, and other types of adventures together. But what truly unites Tomlinson and Fernandes Dos Santos Jr. is not only their friendship, but also one of their dreams: to inspire others to have a more sustainable lifestyle and be happier.
In April 2019, Fernandes Dos Santos Jr. saw a post on Tomlinson’s Instagram, in which she invited her friends to meet at the beach to enjoy the day, but the proposal was something different. Why not go to the beach to have fun, but also to clean it up and collect garbage?
This caught the attention of Fernandes Dos Santos Jr., who was motivated by Tomlinson’s initiative and decided to get involved. Without having planned it, Community 808 emerged to become a group where approximately 30 people participate. Community 808 promotes environmental education, respect for the planet, and a style of life for young adults who feel the need to do something for the community and planet in which they live.
“I feel what we bring to the table is different and it is organized, and it is needed in a way of like, the world needs therapy right now and healing, so which ways could we help grow and heal our community or bring awareness, knowledge, stuff that are a positive outlet,” Fernandes Dos Santos Jr. said. “Because there is so much negativity happening around the world that this is something that we can have hope.”
Their proposal is not based only on the monthly meetings they organize to clean the beach, but the objective of Community 808 is to apply this lifestyle to all possible areas of life, in different communities, and in relation to different topics.
Tomlinson is originally from California decided to move to Hawaiʻi in 2018, while Fernandes Dos Santos Jr., originally from Florida, took the same decision in 2017. They are both entrepreneurs with a big source of creativity when thinking about new activities for the organization, from visiting a senior home to share a lunch or collaborating with a fundraiser to help other organizations like Boys and Girls Club Hawai‘i, to collecting clothes and food for donation centers like Helping Hands Hawai‘i.
“We want to inspire people from wherever they are in the world to create their own community organization where you live,” Tomlinson said. “People should do this. If with Community 808 we can give people the allowance to start this where they live, we want you to be part of this wherever you live, spreading this message to the world.”
The idea they have in mind is to focus monthly on different issues in order to help different areas of the community in different aspects, not only by cleaning the beaches.
“I think the main reason why it is important is because our future is really struggling right now, and I think that it is really important to give people a platform where they can actually get together and do something to give back to the island, to give back to the world, because there is a lot of stuff that people see on social media and it is a lot of I want to help, I want to help, how do I help?” Tomlinson said. “Like where can I help? And there are already community organizations that can do this. It’s good to create another one that goes beyond, not only beach clean ups but like get people aware of the other issues that are going on today.”
Tomlinson and Fernandes Dos Santos Jr. are inspired to motivate the entire community, regardless of age, to get involved with the current environmental situation and to take action and awareness. They both think that the environmental problem is not only an educational issue but also a political one. For them, to be a truly change, it is necessary to make a holistic change of mind, perspective, and action.
“It is really important to introduce your friend and family to organizations like this because it is not just a way to give back once a month and feel good about it, but it is away to be more aware to help your lifestyle for the future,” Tomlinson said.
Tamara L. Butterbaugh, a neighbor of Fernandes Dos Santos Jr. and farmer of the Waimānalo area, said that Tomlinson and Fernandes Dos Santos Jr. are motivating the youth to act in a different way in which young people can help their community and also have fun.
“I think these guys are incredibly fun, they have a vibe that you want to hang out with,” Butterbaugh said. ”They are the kind of people you want to hang with anyways and socialize, so why won’t you do it with social consciousness and share minds. I think it is cool. It is good for a whole demographic to not socialize only in a superficial way but with values and also have fun. It is cool to give a shit about the world. Conscious gatherings, conscious meetups that also make you feel good.”
Butterbaugh also said that Tomlinson and Fernandes Dos Santos Jr. are different because they are creating a new type of way to relate between the younger generation, where there is a meaningful purpose and consciousness.
“They are activating their demographics to not only be on their phones,” she said. “They are inviting them to look around, and in general the kind of things they do is done by Boys and Girls Scouts or like a church, a political party, a religious belief, so you don’t have to be affiliated with a formal organization to make a difference.”
Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, Community 808 had to put a pause in the activities because they are social events where people interact and get to know each other. During this time the group has only held two events and this Saturday, Nov. 14, the third event will be held on the North Shore, at Hukilau Beach located in Laie. Everyone is invited to go and participate of a socially distanced cleanup that will start at 12 pm.
“We feel great about it, and we know this is something bigger than ourselves and anything that we could do to help our community,” Fernandes Dos Santos Jr. said. “We need each other, more than anything else. Everyone wants to push each other away, let’s come together consciously and see this is something we could be doing instead of meaningless things.”
Community 808 is an organization that is managed with the personal financial resources that the organizers have. Although it accepts donations, the organization is uninterested in raising money because it is unnecessary to have a lot of money to carry out the type of activities they organize. Tomlinson and Fernandes Dos Santos Jr. said it is very easy to help the environment just by changing certain lifestyle habits and being aware of the amount of waste people make every day.
“When you come to our events we want to highlight the facts that we can live in a more sustainable lifestyle,” Tomlinson said. “We can use less plastics, we can use reusable items, we can go to the store and bring our refillable containers and shampoo, conditioner, household items that you need. There are just so many different ways to live sustainably that I don’t think people know of so I think that it is very important for people to start changing their mindset the way they live every day.”