“Maui Strong” in the Aftermath of Devastating Fires
After the devastating fires in Lahaina and Kula Aug. 8 on Maui island, dozens of Native Hawaiian cultural leaders met to discuss how the community could come together to begin the healing process. Contrary to Western ways of “just doing it” in terms of cleaning up and starting over, Native Hawaiians want time for their communities to grieve and begin the process of spiritual healing before the grueling process of cleaning up and starting over.
On Friday, Sept. 1, renowned Hawaii kumu hula (hula teachers) and other cultural practitioners led vigils across the state from sunrise to sunset to provide spiritual healing for all those suffering great loss. The Kipuni Aloha no Maui (embrace beloved Maui) brought together hundreds of people from Hilo and Puna on Hawaii Island at sunrise to Kauai and O’ahu at sunset, including representatives of various faith communities. The gatherings included prayers for cleansing and reflection, making time for grieving, emotional and spiritual comfort and healing to survivors and the community at large.
The Loretto Community donated support to the teachers of West Maui, where all four public schools, closed since the fire, will not reopen until early in October. Teachers, staff and students are suffering doubly, having lost both their own homes and their school communities. The fire occurred just a week after schools opened, and all the preparations teachers had made literally went up in smoke. Over 1,700 students have yet to be enrolled elsewhere on Maui, or on other islands in the state, and it is feared that many are just too traumatized to return yet. Lahaina parents want their children to remain in the West Maui area and not be bused daily through the fire-ravaged town to other schools on the island. This is especially important to parents of children who attended King Kamehameha III Elementary School, which burned to the ground. Native Hawaiian language and cultural immersion programs were held at the four schools.
Tremendous physical and financial support has come from across the state and from national and international sources to address the $6 billion in damage. While Maui people are resilient in the face of great obstacles, it is hoped that support will continue over the very long haul that faces West Maui, and the state of Hawaii. Donations will be funneled to over 50 Maui-located nonprofits that are on the ground assisting survivors through the Hawaii Community Foundation/Maui Strong fund.