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Kumu Kalei Takakura-DeFrancia (from left) helps direct KS Maui seniors Pa‘ani Yap and Joshua Kerr as they learn inventory management through organizing donations for families impacted by the wildfires at the Keōpūolani Hale as part of their Entrepreneurship Class.

KS Maui haumāna and ‘ohana receive support from lāhui

Sept. 11, 2023

Kamehameha Schools Maui Lahaina parent Ahlea Ho‘oikaika-Blas did not know if she wanted her family to remain on Maui after losing their home and all of their belongings in last month’s wildfires.

Ho‘oikaika-Blas and her husband discussed moving to O‘ahu and transferring her two daughters, Irie and Makealani Hoʻoikaika-Mansanas, to Kapālama for the school year. She said KS Maui staff began working to accommodate the request, but her daughters made their own decision.

“They (KS Maui) were really going to work with us if we transferred, but my girls made it very clear they did not want to leave Maui and KSM,” Ho‘oikaika said. “Our decision to stay on Maui has solely been on our girls wanting to graduate here. They really love their school, their friends and their teachers and counselors.”

KS Maui parent Ahlea Ho‘oikaika-Blas (second from left), daughters Makealani (11th grade) and Irie (9th grade) Hoʻoikaika-Mansanas, and husband Kā‘eo Blas lost their Lahaina home in the Aug. 8 wildfires.

Among the support the Lahaina family and many others have received has come from staff and volunteers at the Kamehameha Schools Resource Center in Wailuku as well as the Keōpūolani Hale on campus. The two facilities were converted into donation and distribution centers immediately after the wildfires, providing food, water, clothing and other necessities to impacted families.

Kamehameha Schools support services manager Brandi Ferguson said she and staffer Stacey Eaton were tapped to convert the center the day after the Aug. 8 wildfires hit Lahaina and Kula. Ferguson said volunteers and donations were already being dropped off as they cleared out the office and cubicles.

“We knew our families needed it,” she said. “Volunteers just showed up at our door. We weren’t expecting that many people to show up. We stayed open through that weekend, and actually had to stop taking donations because we were loaded to the gills.”

Ferguson said the Wailuku center received donations from over 60 KS Maui families and many others, and spent the following week organizing, packing up and transporting goods up to the KS Maui campus. Donations included clothes, bedding, toiletries, baby items, household items, tents, tarps, toys, water, backpacks, uniforms, and masks.

KS Maui 11th and 12th grade students organize donations for families impacted by the wildfires at the Keōpūolani Hale as part of their entrepreneurship class.

“Everyone was so generous,” she said. “Initially we thought we’ll just convert the conference room, and then okay now the cubicles, oh and now the entire resource center. Every desk and cubicle had donations.”

KS Maui director of operations Danny Mynar said operations staff loaded and hauled the donations up to Keōpūolani Hale on two flatbed trucks and a transit van. Operations staff also stored four palettes of water for families still without safe drinking water.

“Since day one, our operations crew have done a tremendous job in doing whatever our teachers and students needed to return to school safely,” Mynar said. “I can’t thank them enough for the work that they’ve done in support of our community.”

As Keōpūolani Hale began to fill with donations, parent alumni relations manager Lokelani Patrick quickly developed a system for supplies to be distributed to impacted KS Maui ‘ohana. A flier with photos and checkboxes for items haumāna and their parents can mark off and take home was sent out to all directly impacted families.

Kumu Kalei Takakura-DeFrancia and her entrepreneurship class haumāna used the opportunity to learn about inventory management and distribution efficiency by organizing donations. The class included KS Maui junior and Lahaina resident Pa‘ani Yap, whose relatives and friends lost their homes.

“It brings me back to serving a bigger purpose,” said Yap, who has about five families temporarily staying at his home. “I just wanted to lend a helping hand because so many people have been affected. Kula also dealt with loss, even though it may not have been as severe as Lahaina. Kids are still affected, and this work serves to show as a community how we can help each other out.”

Ho‘oikaika-Blas, whose home was one of the first to be burned down, said her daughters only had time to pack their uniforms and school supplies before evacuating. She thanked Patrick for helping them take home supplies and other items.

“I keep bragging to everybody about the list,” Ho‘oikaika-Blas said, noting that her daughters were able to receive everything they needed to return to school. “This is literally another store for us. I hadn’t even looked at school supplies with everything going on. They were able to get everything they needed at the store. Socks, belt, and supplies. They even got a new backpack for their cousin, who had to switch schools from Lāhainā to Paia.”

Other supplies provided to impacted families included over two dozen laptops and chargers for haumāna and their ‘ohana. All students who lost their laptop to the fires were given new ones and families could also request laptops for their other children and for work.

Māhele luna (Grades 6-8) haumāna (from left): LilyAnn Ancog, Taleah Toshikiyo, Madison Nakihei and Kayson Maielua hold laptops provided to them and their ‘ohana.

KS Maui Kahana parent Jeeyun Lee said her home was spared in the fire, but her husband and sixth-grade son, Kaimakana Lum, were displaced and without electricity, internet or phone reception for two weeks. She said the school provided her a laptop and mobile Wifi device for her family and to help her continue working.

“I was just really grateful for the reach out and the coordination KS did to look out for their community,” she said, noting that this is her son’s first year at the school. “It was just the ease of mind and having his needs taken care of. Kids are so resilient. He’s just happy having friends, and he talks about lunch every day. That part of his life is very consistent and I’m beyond grateful amidst the chaos in the community.”

Ho‘oikaika-Blas also appreciated the stability school has provided to her daughters, particularly her youngest, Irie.

“She started her sixth-grade year with Covid and is now starting freshman year with her house burning down,” the mother said. “I’m trying to make her life as normal as possible.”

Ho‘oikaika-Blas said their family has stayed in a different place every week since losing their home. Despite the challenges, though, she said her daughters have persevered.

“I see my kids are more eager and willing and attentive and want to come home and do their homework because of all the support they've received,” she said. “It’s really made them work harder because they’re appreciative of all the school is doing.”

KS Maui Lahaina parent Ahlea Ho‘oikaika-Blas and ‘ohana look over Lahaina following the Aug. 8 wildfires before leaving to stay in Waiehu.

KS Maui juniors (from right) Karissa Chapman, Sydney Dubach and Reece Dean organize clothes for families impacted by the wildfires at the Keōpūolani Hale as part of their entrepreneurship class.

KS Maui parent alumni relations manager Lokelani Patrick takes inventory of laptops for impacted haumāna and their ‘ohana.

KS Maui operations staff (from left): Troy Ritte, Darrell Ines and Thor Akre push a palette of water into Keōpūolani Hale for families without safe drinking water.

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