November-December 2013

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Entrance to Paleaku Gardens Peace Sanctuary


What the World Needs Now Peace, harmony, and love—sweet love |

Memorials are celebrated frequently at the Sanctuary and participants are encouraged to plant a tree or place a bench in commemoration of their loved one. ‘Ohana (family) was also a “big thing” in the slow and steady growth of the gardens over the years, according to Barbara. “What you see today is the work of five generations—my parents, myself, my daughter, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. It has been 43 years and tons of outreach and neighborhood building. Bringing something as vast as Paleaku and its mission into form is a balancing act that the world has yet to achieve,” the energy-charged 63-year-old says. “These gardens have been a work in progress for decades,” says Micah Sterrett, sailor turned landscape expert. A 20year resident of Hawai‘i Island, Sterrett has been cultivating and maintaining the gardens for four years. “It’s a wonderful relationship with nature that comes with challenges, too,” he says. One of his biggest? “Making sure all of these different plants, trees, and florals get along!” Stepping through the gate to the serene, manicured grounds, visitors are greeted with spectacular coast and ocean vistas stretching from the Captain Cook monument in Kealakekua Bay to the north Barbara DeFranco with and the National Historic Park her great granddaughters to the south. The gently sloping | November/December 2013

acred lands, historical treasures cherished and protected by the people of Hawai‘i, exist throughout the island chain. All possess special mana (power or energy) and some much more than others. On Hawai‘i Island, one such place is Paleaku Gardens Peace Sanctuary on Painted Church Road in South Kona. Quietly situated between Kealakekua Bay and Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historic Park (once a place of refuge for ancient Hawaiian wrong-doers), the gardens embody deep spiritual mana combined with amazing natural beauty that invites contemplation and creative expression. Visionary and steward of the nine-acre property for 43 years, Barbara DeFranco devoted seven acres for the development of a spectacular botanical garden with numerous plants and trees endemic to Hawai‘i, as well as from countries worldwide. Multi-denominational statues and shrines are mindfully scattered throughout the gardens to illustrate the beauty of all the world’s cultural and spiritual traditions. Exploration, including spiritual studies, she says, is part of life. The Paleaku Gardens’ mission from day one has always been to create a strong sense of peace and harmony through beauty and balance. Rare flowers and trees share the space with macadamia nut, coffee and citrus orchards, along with more exotic fruit trees planted here from seeds and brought in from around the globe. “With the help of friends, I found this property more than 40 years ago and knew immediately it had an unique purpose. Because of the historical significance of the land and the topography that exists here, I knew one day it would become a spiritual center— I just didn’t know exactly how,” Barbara, owner and executive director, says. Today, with the help of many like-minded friends who shared her vision and a great Board of Directors, Paleaku Gardens Peace Sanctuary operates as a nonprofit charitable organization offering tours Tuesdays through Saturdays, special events (including weddings), yoga classes and educational seminars year round.

By Margaret Kearns