Where are you from? Educational background? I grew up in the Texas Hill Country and moved to Hawaii in 2016. This Fall I will graduate from The University of Hawaii, West Oahu with a degree in Business Marketing + Management and will continue my education on the mainland in pursuit of a Juris Doctorate.
What got you interested in volunteering for the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii? My desire to ensure our community has access to legal resources and adequate representation for individuals who are underrepresented or marginalized. I hope to continue this work once I become an attorney.
Can you share a bit about what you’ll be working on (i.e. projects, efforts, duties?) I will intern at Honolulu’s Access to Justice Room and Self-Help Centers on Maui and Kauai, providing client intake for individuals seeking assistance from our volunteer attorneys.
Who do you admire most in the world? My husband. He is smart, driven, and selfless. As a Respiratory Therapist for the Army, he is currently deployed in Southern California, working with COVID patients at a local hospital.
What’s on your bucket list? Visiting the Maldives! Visiting La Casa Azul in Mexico City, childhood home of artist Frida Kahlo that is now a museum exhibiting her original work.
What are some of your hobbies, passions, interests? I love painting using mixed media, paddle boarding around the island, watching true-crime documentaries, and baking with my kids. I’m passionate about social justice, advocating for victims of domestic violence, and mental health.
You have an entire day off – how would you spend it?
I'd spend the morning on the Kaneohe sandbar with my husband and our twins. Followed by an evening-in, with dinner on the lanai.
I know what it’s like to feel really helpless. My husband died four years ago and he left me in a really bad situation. I am so blessed to live in Kona in a government subsidized community apartment complex, but before I got here, I lived in a homeless shelter for two years and with a friend of mine for three years.
After my husband passed away I learned that he had opened multiple credit cards in my name. All of a sudden, I got all these bills for $7,000, $10,000, $3,000… and they kept coming. I couldn't believe it.
I just wanted to have peace.
People were coming after me for these bills and I felt so down. When you are down at your feet, you have to kiss the ground. I had nowhere to go and when I finally looked up, a friend of mine said there’s the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii.
The attorney and other people I met at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii’s Kona office were absolutely wonderful. They were such a blessing.
It gave me so much hope to hear them say to me, “Just hold on, we are doing everything we can for you”.
I am so eternally grateful to Legal Aid for the peace they brought into my life. We all could use a little bit of help and love. Life can be so tough on us and it can end so quickly. I treasure what I have today because I know we only live once. I encourage others who need help to reach out to Legal Aid.
- Margrit M.
My name is Lorenza Sonis and I am known as Cinder Sonis in my COFA community. I have been with the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii for 5 years and work as an Outreach Specialist where I primarily help clients with applying for medical insurance and intake those who need services that LASH provides.
One of my most memorable experiences working with Legal Aid is when I would do hospital bedside outreach, helping sick and dying people who could only speak in Chuukese. These people relied on me to help them with applying for medical insurance and their documentation.
What I love most about this work is connecting and reconnecting to families, friends, and others. I enjoy meeting and helping other people.
The most challenging part of my work is saying NO to the great demand that my community needs from me. My work requires more than just me -- I always say, "I wish I were an octopus who has 8 tentacles to work with." I wish I could further my reach.
LASH is a place where our staff work tirelessly to help ensure that the community has access to services, justice, and fairness.
Although my community faces racism, I am not embarrassed to say that I am Chuukese. I love helping my community as well as other people, and have a respect for my host island (Hawaii). It is my culture that makes me who I am, with a big heart in helping others and I love the aloha spirit that my host island of Hawaii has. My culture places responsibility on my shoulders as the eldest girl in the family, to take care of the immediate family as well as the extended family with respect for all.
- Cinder Sonis, Outreach Specialist