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Across Maui, communities mobilize to help those in need

Volunteers with King's Cathedral Maui unload donations of blankets and supplies on Aug. 10, 2023 in Kahului, Hawaii. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Volunteers with King's Cathedral Maui unload donations of blankets and supplies on Aug. 10, 2023 in Kahului, Hawaii. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In Hawaii, thousands of people are still without power.

In Lahaina, difficult recovery efforts continue, as the death toll rose above 100. Grist reporter Gabriela Aoun Angueira says all across Maui, people in neighboring communities have been lining up to offer donations for those in need, including food, water gasoline and diapers.

“This community mobilized immediately, and everyone is working so hard,” she says. “That’s really rooted in their values of spreading aloha, sharing with one another, giving to one another, sacrificing for one another.”

3 questions with Gabriela Aoun Angueira

How are people who lost virtually everything making their needs known?

“It depends on where people are. So there are still a great many people in the shelters. And I’d say that a lot of their needs are being met pretty well by all of the donations that are getting funneled through the shelters.

“But there are a lot of people who are staying in the homes of friends and family or who are even staying in their cars or tents. It’s a greater challenge to meet the needs of those people.

“The community has set up hubs all over Maui where people can come and get what they need. I spent Sunday visiting one of those hubs at the Hawaiian Canoe Club, and volunteers had set up rows and rows of boxes of meticulously organized goods so that people could come and find the things that they needed easily.”

Is there support from FEMA or the Red Cross, or is this mostly community-led?

“You see a large FEMA and Red Cross presence at the shelters. At War Memorial Gym, which is one of the main shelters, FEMA has a large presence registering people. Red Cross is making available mental health services and medical services. They’ve set up beds for people. There are places there also where families can find items that they need, even items for their dogs that they need.

“But what we’re hearing time and again is that the real area of concern are the people who are still in Lahaina. Access to Lahaina is highly restricted right now. It’s supposed to be only for residents and certain personnel, so the families that are still in that area who don’t have power, who don’t have ways to communicate, what I’ve been hearing from Maui residents is that they’re not getting the official aid from agencies that they need. That’s coming solely from local help.

“I talked to a couple of men who are going in some of these convoys that are taking supplies in there and they said that they’re just going neighborhood to neighborhood. They don’t really know what they’re going to find each time, but whenever they do find someone, they ask what they need. If they’re running out of fuel in their generator, they refill it. If they’re running out of ways to keep their food from spoiling, they give them a cooler full of ice. That’s really the way that you can get to these people is just driving around and hoping that you find people who need your help.”

Is the government expected to step in to help make these community efforts more systematic?

“That’s something that we’ve been trying to find out. We put out a request to the governor’s office to respond to some of the complaints that we had heard from residents about not seeing any official aid in those areas. We haven’t received a response yet.

“We asked the Red Cross and they told us that they can’t go back there without state officials giving them access. And so it does seem like we’re waiting for the state to decide what they’re going to do, but it does seem a little strange to not send aid back there yet.”

Adeline Sire produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Grace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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