Emilia Knudsen is a 12-year-old who lives on the island of Kaua'i in Hawaii. She’s a longtime treasure hunter and artist who is always on the search for sea glass to create with. In 2019, Emilia started EmiliaK jewelry, making and selling genuine Hawaiian sea glass jewelry and art. Additionally, she has a Facebook group called Hawaii Sea Glass and Art where anyone can sell and share their Hawaii-inspired art and jewelry. Hoping to inspire others to spread kindness, Emilia shared how she has used the beach treasures the island has offered her to help her community in recent difficult times.
When the pandemic took over in 2020, Emilia saw the effect it had on her community and quickly took action to establish Emilia’s Free Food Pantry. She replaced the books in her street’s Little Library House with food, and became a manager at Kapa'a community food pantry, sometimes distributing food to over 100 people a day. With the pandemic hitting the tourism industry hard, many Hawaiians suffered as the economy came to a halt. To raise money to fill the pantry, Emilia did whatever she could by selling her sea glass jewelry and art, organizing events, fire-dancing, fundraising, and applying for grants. She raised over $30,000 to uplift her community and provide food and resources for anyone in need.
“I am grateful for this opportunity to serve my ohana (family) and for all the people that have been helping me help others. It was magnificent how the community stepped up and backed me,” Emilia says, “It’s not really about me, I am just a young girl, but it’s about the community stepping up and helping each other in these horrible times.”
Over the last couple of years, Emilia has put on weekly events at the food pantry to help the keiki (kids) in her community including a Shirley Temple Day, book, toy, and clothes exchanges, and a big Christmas event. In February she also organized an event for nā kūpuna (elders) who might be isolated. She and her friends made over 200 Valentine’s Day cards, painted rocks, and made ti-leaf lei for them. Emilia recently had her second Kapa'a Community Pantry toy exchange providing food, drinks, snacks, and toiletries to 125 homeless people in Kapa'a on Christmas Eve.
Her actions can inspire us all to be more involved in our communities wherever we can. “I think it is important that we all take action to make it a better world to live in. One person’s act of kindness can change another person’s life. Let us build a more loving and kinder tomorrow based on giving and compassion. If we help each other, we will all be okay.”
Find Emilia’s seed, shell, and beach glass jewelry and art at EmiliaKJewelry.etsy.com.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2022 issue.