Soup Dinner Will Fund One Community Project In Chinatown

Samantha Ruiz addresses the audience at the first SOUP event  RAFAEL BERGSTROM PHOTO

Samantha Ruiz addresses the audience at the first SOUP event

Since 2014, HNL SOUP has been hosting community micro-granting dinners where $12 gets attendees soup, bread and a vote for which community project they like best. Throughout the night, groups present their project proposals, and the one with the most votes walks away with the proceeds. To date, HNL SOUP has raised about $6,000 for seven local programs, which address issues from homelessness to urban agriculture.

The latest installment of HNL SOUP returns from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Jan. 28 at The ARTS at Marks Garage, this time with a focus on Chinatown. In partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development (OED), Chinatown SOUP will focus on supporting projects that target the Chinatown area.

It’s a bottom-up approach that OED executive director Nicole Velasco hopes can help government key into issues that the Chinatown community wants to address.

“I think one of the most important things for me personally is looking at how do we strengthen the community as they would like to be strengthened,” Velasco says. “I think sometimes — especially in government — we may be a little further away from what it is that people would actually like to see right in their neighborhood, so we want to entertain those ideas.”

HNL SOUP is in the process of gathering proposals, and Velasco anticipates there will be a wide range. Chinatown, she points out, is a varied community with small businesses, restaurants and nightlife venues.

“I am very interested in seeing what the community comes forward with,” Velasco says.

“There is so much going on — there is a lot of art, there’s a lot of culture, there’s a lot of richness, there’s a lot of amazing restaurants,” she continues. “We just want to be a part of supporting that community.”

HNL SOUP founder and organizer Samantha Ruiz launched the event as a way to harness the social entrepreneurship she felt was budding around town.

“HNL SOUP is a space for people to share their stories, support positive change throughout Honolulu, and continue to build on the community connections that already exist,” Ruiz explains.

Velasco hopes OED can extend that model to other neighborhoods in the future. After all, in addition to the funding itself, Velasco and Ruiz see SOUP events as vehicles for community building. It’s a chance for people who live, work or play in an area to come together — and to invest in those communities in a way that is accessible.

“It’s an opportunity for people to get to meet each other,” Velasco says. “When you start seeing people of like-minds together, then you start to build something.”

HNL SOUP still is looking for groups to pitch their projects at Chinatown SOUP. Proposals must be submitted by Jan. 27. For more information, visit