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Volunteers from Kamehameha Schools and HSTA pack school supplies into donated backpacks at Windward Mall, on ʻĀina Pauahi in Heʻeia, Oʻahu.

Kamehameha Schools, public teachers union partnership delivers aloha, school supplies to Maui keiki

Oct. 24, 2023

A partnership rooted in aloha for Maui paved the way for hundreds of haumāna to receive free backpacks filled with school supplies right before they transitioned back to their West Maui campuses.

The collaboration between Kamehameha Schools and the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association began after the Aug. 8 wildfires destroyed King Kamehameha III Elementary School and temporarily closed three others: Lahainaluna High, Lahaina Intermediate, and Princess Nahiʻenaʻena Elementary.

Kalei Kailihiwa, Kamehameha Schools director of community engagement, said, “Coming together with the Hawaiʻi State Teachers Association was an important way, a simple way that we could help and aid in the recovery of our Lahaina communities.”

“We had a chance to talk about what students needed to feel comfortable and safe and loved as they go back to school, and so we came up with the idea of filling backpacks with school supplies,” said Logan Okita, vice president of HSTA.

More than 800 backpacks were distributed by Kamehameha Schools and the HSTA on Oct. 12 at a community event sponsored by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education at The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Kāʻanapali.

Kamehameha Schools purchased the school supplies and secured a donation of 3,000 backpacks from Lands’ End. Then in September, dozens of volunteers — which included HSTA teachers, retirees and staff as well as Kamehameha Schools employees — gathered at Windward Mall on ʻĀina Pauahi in Heʻeia, Oʻahu to fill the backpacks with supplies, pack them into boxes, and load them onto a shipping container provided by Matson.

“You can just feel the love that’s being poured into each and every backpack by our retirees and the HSTA staff members and our Kamehameha Schools ʻohana. It’s amazing to feel just how much love is being put into these backpacks, and hopefully the students and community feel it when they receive them from us,” said Okita.

Each backpack also includes a special handmade card created by keiki and ‘ohana who participated in one of the many community programs supported by Kamehameha Schools.

“We asked them to take some time, create a handwritten card that demonstrates the care, the aloha that communicates to kids and families in Lahaina that we’re here for you today, tomorrow, and always,” said Kailihiwa.

More than 400 backpacks with supplies were distributed prior to the Oct. 12 community event. Two hundred backpacks were delivered to Ke Kula Kaiapuni ma Lahaina. Nearly 200 more were provided to displaced Lahainaluna High students at Kūlanihākoʻi High in Kihei, and several dozen were distributed to displaced Lahaina students who transferred into private schools.

“We care deeply about our communities, our keiki, and our ʻohana, and we know that having something as simple as a backpack that you can add your own name to can add to the sense of familiarity, comfort and stability that we know is so important to kids and families today,” said Kailihiwa.

The remaining backpacks are being made available for distribution by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, and Lahaina-area schools.

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