Maui Community United to Help Our Kababayans Affected by Wildfires

Maui Community United to Help Our Kababayans Affected by Wildfires

Over two months ago the fires in Lahaina brought devastation and destruction to the homes, businesses and memorable sites in our popular, historic town of Lahaina, also enjoyed by millions of visitors from around the world. The lives of thousands of Filipino families are forever changed by the losses of loved ones. Most survivors are in shock and still grieving, coping minute by minute with the trauma and anxiety caused by this event, knowing it will take a long time to rebuild their homes and their lives. Their needs are many and enormous. Our Filipino community must provide support and encouragement to our grieving kababayans.

The question before us is “How do we as a community best respond to those who have been impacted—today, next week, next month and yes, in the years ahead?” Many are suffering and often ask why God allowed this tragic event to happen to so many people. There is no easy answer. To those who are asking this question, I offer the thought the one thing I know for sure is God knows what you are going through and cares about your pain. He is forever present during this difficult time as you rebuild your lives.

Rick Nava, Lt. Gov. Sylva Luke and Kit Furukawa take a breather for a photo at the Hawak Kamay resource fair at the Lahaina Civic Center.
Photo courtesy Rick Nava

The tragic devastation has brought forward many heroes—caring for and supporting those who were affected by the fires—providing comfort, a place to live for those who have been displaced, food clothing and a shoulder to cry on. One of the heroes is Kit Zulueta Furukawa of the Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce, who led the recently held Hawak Kamay Resource Fair event on September 3rd at the Lahaina Civic Center. It was amazing and gratifying to see Maui’s Filipino community come together in unity during this event attended by three thousand or more of the survivors seeing help. Reports indicate there were more than fifty resource groups present, including County, State, Federal and non-governmental agencies providing support and information to the victims, such as healthcare providers, social service agencies, labor unions, some churches and many more resources. And, yes, there were free haircuts, chiropractic services, Reiki massage (hilot), passport renewals and many favorite vegetables. According to recent reports, the event was a resounding success because of Kit’s effective leadership and ability to bring our Maui Filipino community together in a much-needed response to a great cause. She is definitely a hero in my book!

Equally appreciated as a hero is Rick Nava, a longtime, multilingual resident, U.S. Army veteran, a community activist, who also lost his home in the fire. He has been instrumental in advocating for the needs of others facing the same challenges, especially Filipinos. Recently, Mayor Bissen appointed Nava as one of the five members of the Lahaina Advisory Committee that will provide guidance on how our County administration addresses and responds to the multiple needs of the fire victims. Rick is a well-reasoned voice representing our Filipino community, whose passion and determination ensures us all that our community will not be left behind as resources are offered by various agencies.

Keiki Art with hearts brought by Phil and Christine Sabado brought healing to keiki, allowing them to express a message in an artistic way on pre-cut heart-shaped pieces of construction paper.
Photo courtesy Rick Nava

Another hero is the Binhi at Ani organization that is providing direct financial assistance (known as Tulong for Lahaina®) to our Maui Filipino community members who lost their homes or businesses in the fires. This financial support is much needed to help ease the pain many of our kababayans are experiencing in the aftermath of this tragic devastation. We are grateful to the Board of Directors of this important organization that is always there in response to community needs that arise.

Finally, Kaibigan Ng Lahaina (Friends of Lahaina) was recently established to help our Filipino community in this time of extreme need. Its mission is “To inspire and cultivate a sense of belonging.” It is so encouraging to see our next generation of young Filipino professionals with energy and vision to take the lead in this season of deep sorrow. A community picnic is planned for November 5th at Launiupoko Beach Park in Lahaina for the residents displaced by the fire.

We know there are many more heroes in our community who are working tirelessly for as long as it takes. We owe them our profound gratitude for their servant hearts, as they continue to help with unconditional support through steady effort and personal commitment.

Those affected by the Lahaina fires could have their hair cuts, gratis, at the Hawak Kamay resource fair.
Photo courtesy Rick Nava

These individuals and organizations that are noted above remind me of the parable found in the Bible, in Matthew 25:35–36, which states, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me …” The moral of the story—as God’s children, He expects us to help everyone around us, especially those who are suffering due to the devastation from the fire. Our Lord also expects us to be humble and generous in our giving to everyone. God is a Promise Keeper and the Light in the darkness. He will be with us during these difficult times as we rebuild our lives, our homes, our businesses and our community.

Let us all come together as a community in unity by extending a helping hand to our ‘ohana!