The virtual University of Hawai’i Student Basic Needs Cafe supports students who are in need; it is the mission to launch in every UH campus throughout the state. (Screenshot from the University of Hawai’i website)
By Juri Dagio | Staff Writer
In February, the UH Student Basic Needs Cafe was launched to provide assistance and resources to students at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and Windward Community College.
Dr. Farrah-Marie Gomes, the associate vice president for Student Affairs at University of Hawai’i, encourages all UH students in need to access the online Student Basic Needs Cafe.
“Our goal is to provide live assistance for students during non-business hours,” she said. The virtual cafe is open on Sunday evenings through Thursday evenings, from 8 p.m. – 12 a.m.
Currently, the virtual cafe is staffed by two graduate assistants from UH Mānoa. They operate a kiosk where students are able to login and can be linked to one of the two graduate assistants via Zoom. From there, students can ask questions pertaining to student basic needs. These basic needs include, food and housing, clothing, childcare, mental health, financial resources and transportation.
The virtual cafe was launched as a pilot.
“Based on the outcome of this, we would consider doing this in-person,” Gomes said. “However, there are safety concern with regards to having in-person activities especially during the hours of operation of the virtual cafe.”
Though conducted online, they are able to serve nearly 48,000 students across the University of Hawai’i system.
“All 10 campuses virtually, that wouldn’t be possible if we weren’t in the virtual space,” she said.
Every campus has a webpage in the UH Student Basic Needs website. This website helps students identify on-campus and community resources. In partnership with findhelp.org, a public domain that supports the community with financial assistance, medical care and more, students can type in their zip code to filter which resources are available in their area. When a student logs in with their UH email (@hawaii.edu), they are provided with more resources than what is publicly available.
“It’s a pretty cool tool when you’re looking for what resources might be available to help you with any of the basic needs that students might have,” Gomes said.
The Student Basic Needs Cafe is open and available to access continuously during summers and during winter breaks, except on public holidays.
“Students are welcome to come back as often as possible, especially if they are having trouble and something that we referred them didn’t work out,” she said. “We absolutely want to help the students.”
By the end of the academic year, they hope to launch in two more campuses, at Maui CC, and at Hawai’i CC on the Big Island.
“We look forward to welcoming Kapi’olani Community College as one of the campuses to join the virtual cafe, either over the summer or in the fall semester,” Gomes said. “In the meantime, even though the campus may not have launched, Kapi’olani Community College students are still welcome to access the virtual cafe.”
Virtual cafe access is available to KCC students regardless of campus launch date.