Sep 18, 2015
A group of 15 Trust staff were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience of Molokai while working on a community service project at Kalaupapa through the National Park Service.
Arriving Kalaupapa early in the morning -- some flew in, while the more adventurous began hiking down at daybreak -- we met up with Harry Arce of the Kalaupapa Department of Health, Barbara's nephew and our host for the day. After the required visitor check-in, we rode up country to a beautiful, pristine preserve to begin our service project: clearing invasive plants from native species restoration areas.
Luana Kaaihui, native Hawaiian plant specialist with the NPS, gave us an informative orientation, instructions, and all the tools required for the job.
Tough work -- but equally rewarding to see all we had accomplished in the span of one morning.
With our work behind us, the group explored some nearby ruins and toured the original Kalaupapa settlement before lunch. Once a settlement of more than 8,000 Native Hawaiians with leprosy (now known as Hansen’s disease and introduced to the islands in about 1830 by foreign workers), Kalaupapa today has only 16 remaining patients. The experience of actually being there was awesome; the sense of peace and beauty were simply breathtaking.
Sadly, and too soon, it was time to leave. Following a quick dip in the ocean "back in town", we began our ascent up the mountain, hiking the Kalaupapa trail, back to reality.
Reaching the top (WHOOPAA!!!), we celebrated the many gifts of the day and the opportunity to work and be together.
Mahalo nui loa to: Kekama Helm of the Molokai Children’s Center, who made the day possible and warmly opened his hale to us all; to Honeygirl Engilsh, also from the Molokai Unit, for her help with logistics and the many pre-huakaʻi arrangements; to Harry Arce of the Kalaupapa Department of Health for being our gracious host and guide throughout Kalaupapa; to Luana Kaaihue of the NPS for giving us the opportunity to volunteer and for sharing her knowledge about the ʻaina and native species of the area; to Aunty Joyce Kainoa of Molokai, Barbara's dear friend who so graciously joined us and generously shared so many colorful and beautiful stories of her life and her family homestead on the back side of the island; to Barbara Kalipi, our Children's Center executive director, just for being from Molokai and for joining us and doing all the behind-the-scenes things she did to make the day flow so effortlessly; and lastly but not leastly, to Kehau Harrison, QLT special projects manager, for having the vision and commitment to make the day a reality.