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I thought this was America, this is the big country. And for me to see all these trees and flowers; oh, my gosh. The community was established by King Kamehameha I to be his seat of government when he was chief of Kona before he consolidated rule of the archipelago, and it later it became the capital of the newly unified Kingdom of Hawaii.And they were in their teens, and they really took care of us. Ten, twenty thousand dollars, and there are twenty, forty people putting into this pool. And she was able to secure the down payment needed to buy the house, and she bought it on an agreement of sale. But to go into JC Penney’s to buy something; that never happened. They were clean, and they were smart, and they had a hope of future. But I internalized this when a traumatic accident happened with me. And they were hiring a brand new team, so I went to work for them. You’ve been active in different political campaigns. Any issue coming up that you’re scratching your head about how to solve? What happened to that leasehold, termite-ridden house in Ainakoa? But I remember the Aha Moment of when I thought, I’ve finally made it, is she was buying the leasehold into fee, and she didn’t have enough income to qualify for a mortgage. The business owner says she’s keeping a work-family balance as the single parent of a two-year-old son.
Now, when you say you were poor, what does poor mean? I think my mom sent some money to help take care of us. And there winters when we had to go to the pump house to pump water, because our well wouldn’t work. What were your parents telling you about how to behave in this new world? [CHUCKLE] On the hillside, dilapidated, with termites, but it was the only one she could afford; leasehold house. So, at age fifteen, Christine decided to run away from home. Whenever I had free time, I would have them come over to my place. And at that moment, while I was cooling off, they had ice on me, I’m sitting there, and I had an Aha Moment. And I became such a budget cruncher, and I had such a love for affordable housing that I did a lot of affordable housing there, and had a lot of fun. So that it gives you kind of a guiding light as to where one should go. I worked five years, and I thought okay, five years is enough. Walking away from the millions of dollars was easier than laying people off. And I’ve been poor, and I was that close to being homeless. And I think I live in the moment, and it makes me happy, and doing what I believe is the right thing to do, making decisions that allows me to go to the future.
When I think back, I think of how resilient all of us were. Picking up more of the language, and moving to a different public school in the same district gave her a chance for a fresh start. And everyone didn’t like her, because she was really tough. But she was the one that made me feel so accepted, that I was smart. And I wrote about , it’s long, it’s beautiful, and you can see the leaves, green leaf after green leaf. When we first came here, we lived in what I thought was a mansion. And I felt that education was my future, I didn’t want to be there, and that I wanted to have hope. And they’re wonderful people, but they lost hope for their future, and they weren’t taking responsibility for themselves. She went to work seven days a week; she didn’t go to work. And when he realized I can take on more, he gave me increasingly more and more opportunities to do different things, and he taught me so much. So I think it was four years and ten months, or something like that. I found a couple of projects that I wanted to work on, that I thought I could do. So those were kind of the goals that I put into place for five-year goals. It’s been eleven years, and so we’re now looking at what we’re going to do. As long as you have a goal in mind, I think it makes it easier for one to make a decision. I mean, to walk away from millions of dollars invested in a piece of property … It’s adding to the cost of buying homes, to sheltering these people. So people are scratching their head thinking, we’ve gotta do something, and yet, there’s no funding from the general fund. And we’re expanding in our development services business, but we’re also buying other companies, and really believing in Hawaii, and growing other businesses.
Because I think for us, were hoping for a better life, and so we didn’t know what we didn’t have. And we moved to Wilson Elementary right before we ended the fifth grade year. So I packed up my ego, packed up my things; I went home that day, the next day. What was amazing is, my mom never asked me a question. She was there folding laundry, she acted like nothing happened. And my luck comes in having my first job with a gentleman named Rex Kuwasaki. And that’s where I realized what an impact I could have in the community, and how meaningful it would be to be a developer, to create communities, from an idea on a piece of paper, to see buildings, to put people in homes. So I wanted to have my own company, and I wanted to be that, what he was doing. Ended up becoming not a project, but it did give me the courage to move on to being my own developer, my own company, having my own company. I wanted to be my own developer, but I realized it was a lot harder in raising money than just doing projects. We, because our company has grown beyond just myself, and we are looking at our next five years. ‘Cause isn’t it what it is; it’s always a series of decisions, how do you decide. By taking it from the developers when they’re doing affordable housing, or just adding more housing stock so that it becomes affordable, it just adds to that burden. So the next five years is really diversifying, and creating the next layer of managers.
Our next Long Story Short guest began life in South Korea, immigrated to Hawaii as a young girl, and grew up to become a successful real estate developer. At the age of thirty-two, Christine Camp launched Avalon, a real estate development company in Honolulu.
The contrast between her life before, and after her move to Hawaii, is enough to make anyone believe in the American dream. Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition. Now, that may sound young, but by then, Christine Camp had experienced a lifetime’s worth of lessons.