With reports emerging that the Kilauea eruptions may last for many months- and even years- to come, residents of Hawaii’s Big Island will have to brace themselves for long-term change.
Since May 3rd, Mount Kilauea, Hawaii’s most active volcano, began spewing lava that has engulfed over 700 homes, leading to waves of evacuations. The eruption has caused geological disturbances so significant that constant earthquakes and smaller tremors, plus lava bombs, smog, fumes, and ash, threaten the safety of those who’ve escaped the lava’s path. Rounding out nearly three months since the initial eruption, there is still much at stake for Hawaiians.
For many, suffering the volcano’s wrath means losing a home, a car, or an entire life’s worth. For the community, it means losing businesses, jobs, and schools (like the Kua O Ka La Charter School). In order to relieve some of the enormity of these burdens, Tzu Chi USA sprang to provide volcano relief via a cash card distribution.
Through our Tzu Chi Pacific Islands Regional Office (based in Honolulu), our volunteers partnered with the state of Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency to offer cash relief for three consecutive Sundays, July 8, 15, and 22, at its Disaster Recovery Center in the Kea’au High School Gymnasium in Kea’au. Alongside Tzu Chi Relief were disaster relief and community resource organizations including FEMA and the American Red Cross.
For the first distribution on July 8, nineteen Tzu Chi volunteers traveled from Honolulu, with the help of eight local volunteers from the Big Island, to setup its disaster relief base at the DRC. That Sunday, 87 cash cards were distributed to individuals and families to be used wherever the cardholder feels it is wisest to spend. After disaster, we strongly believe financial empowerment is a critical step to get back on one’s own feet and stand tall doing so.
While money matters, it’s not all that matters. On the following Sunday, July 15, we gave 149 cash cards and held our final distribution on July 22nd, where we gave out 161 cash cards. This means that altogether we’d met nearly 400 individuals and families who’d struggled. Our volunteers were captivated by stories of lava and flame and moved by tales of loss and suffering endured over these months. Being able to lend an ear and a shoulder to cry on, too, reminds us of the importance of compassion, yet there’s still more to do in Hawaii.
We’ll be back on July 29th on the Hawaiian island of Kauai to offer flood relief. Between April 13 to 16, historic rainfall slammed both the islands of Kauai and Oahu, causing the destruction or damage of at least 530 homes in the process. Tzu Chi’s Disaster Relief is committed to serving families all over the world with love and compassion, through whatever they may face and wherever they may be. You can help us, too, at our fundraiser in support of unconditional love.