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There has been an outpouring of aloha to help those impacted by the wildfires. This video highlights some of the many ways that members of our Kamehameha Schools community are coming together to offer their support.

Standing together with our Maui community

Sept. 18, 2023

Kamehameha Schools Maui executive chef Bonny Davis never imagined she would be feeding firefighters at the start of the new school year. But with three wildfires burning in different communities on the island, the Food Service team and school leaders cooked and delivered more than 1,000 meals, including lūʻau stew and pastele stew with kalo. Some of the firefighters they fed are KS alumni or have children who attend the ʻAʻapueo campus.   

“Sometimes you just need a hot meal when you’re fighting fires for hours and hours,” said Davis. “They were really appreciative.”  

Preparing hearty meals was just one way Kamehameha Schools quickly stepped in to help. Several Kamehameha Schools employees on Oʻahu with deep roots and connections to Lahaina are now focusing their work on the healing and recovery ahead for Maui. Together with the Maui-based staff, they allowed KS to respond to urgent needs and deploy resources immediately.

The day after the fires started, KS community strategist Hailama Farden KSK’89 began serving as a cultural advisor to the American Red Cross. He is featured in a video that provides a cultural introduction for incoming Red Cross disaster response volunteers from the continent. In the clip, Farden introduces people to commonly used words in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and customs they may encounter.

“It was really about assuring that there is sensitivity to our cultural practices here,” explained Farden. “During this type of disaster, it’s chaos and everyone is running in different directions, but we all collect ourselves and we’re there for each other.”

In addition to assisting the Red Cross, Farden has been reaching out to Hawaiian churches and civic clubs to find out about impacts and needs. Farden, who is the kahu of Waiʻanae Protestant Church, also fulfilled a request from the Maui Police Department chief to lead a prayer over grieving families during a recent meeting between MPD and ʻohana that lost loved ones.

Kamehameha Schools community strategist Hailama Farden KSK’89 appears in a video that familiarizes incoming Red Cross volunteers from the continent with important cultural information and basic words in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.

The need for emotional and spiritual healing led to Kīpuni Aloha no Maui, a day-long vigil at various locations across the pae ʻāina on September 1. Many agencies and organizations, including Kamehameha Schools, helped to coordinate the ceremonies that were grounded in ʻōiwi practices.

“My family is deeply rooted in Lahaina and a lot of the historical sites that were lost, so it really has been a significant loss for our family as a whole. Being able to support the sunset vigil in Kāʻanapali and participate in the event was a healing experience that helped me feel connected to my ʻohana and also to the place,” said KS community strategist Nālani Kealaiki KSK’94. “We stood there and did the oli and cried with each other, sang together, and hugged one another.”

Kamehameha Schools and the Pauahi Foundation also launched Hoʻōla Maui, which encompasses all of KS’ efforts to offer kōkua to those impacted on Maui. The Hoʻōla Maui Fund will help with educational expenses for Maui families rebuilding from loss. The KS I Mua Maui Fund is a perpetual fund directed to support KS programs and initiatives to meet education needs for KS preschools, haumāna, employees and ʻohana who are affected by disasters, including the Maui wildfires.  

“It was important for us to move with urgency and care to support our Maui community,” said Waiʻaleʻale Sarsona, vice president of Hiʻialo at Kamehameha Schools. “How do we help keiki get to a place where learning can happen when they’re ready? We must address all elements of their well-being – whether it’s their social-emotional needs, housing needs, health care, food and clothing, and so, in conjunction with other partners, we’re trying to make that happen for our community.”  

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