It might have been any other day for most people, but on May 17, 2018, the lives of the people of the Hawaiian island of Kauai were forever changed when Kilauea volcano erupted. As ash and lava spewed across the island and into the sky, the damage was devastating. Residents were forced to evacuate in the wake of the eruption, changing the course of their lives forever.
Among those caught up in the volcano’s aftermath was The Kua o Ka Lao Charter School that provides Hawaiian children with an education in Native Hawaiian values. The school that is so important to the lives of these children was one of many places along the coastline that was destroyed, leaving the students devastated. School leaders were quickly in relocation mode searching for areas in which to rebuild.
The school receives no funding even though Hawaiian charter schools are public schools, hence there is no state-funded disaster relief support. Tzu Chi teams were on site to provide disaster relief and to consider much-needed long-term support along with five rotary clubs that joined together to raise funds to help rebuild a makeshift elementary school facility.
As approximately 24 fissures opened up with cracks widening in the roads every week, the displacement of families was evident. Heidi Austin, a Tzu Chi care recipient, was one of many forced to flee her home and relocate to The Milk and Honey Farm in the interim. “It’s very unsettling,” Heidi said. “So, I go between hope and despair. If I survive this, if the land survives this, then I have a place.” Tzu Chi provided much-needed support enabling Heidi to begin seeing a brighter path.
Regina was overwhelmed with the aid provided by Tzu Chi and knew the importance of giving back. She wanted to help and asked what she could do in return. She knew that the true gift Tzu Chi provides is more than just money and goes much deeper, prompting her to ask where her volunteer services were needed.
“The most amazing thing that I’ve seen happen so far in this entire situation is the amount of help, the amount of gratitude, the amount of people coming together to change the situation as much as they can to try and do anything to help another person,” Regina said, which is the essence of what Tzu Chi truly provides.
To be able to see an opportunity come out of devastation, to see that possibility can come from it, and realizing that it is how you choose to react to a situation is at the heart of Tzu Chi.
Tzu Chi caregivers traveled to Hilo to provide financial support and comfort to those individuals and families affected, distributing cash cards to 398 families in this particular instance and other survivors of devastation including severe floods and hurricanes.
Currently, Tzu Chi caregivers are supporting the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia and preparing for relief efforts from Hurricane Florence.