For Japanese tsunami survivors, a little Maui sunshine and R&R could be just what the doctor ordered. But when your home has been destroyed, your work environment and way to make a living washed away, to say nothing of family and friends getting killed, showing up at the Red Cross to ask for a Hawaii Vacation could be out of the question. Aloha Initiative, a program led by the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui, is filling hearts with aloha by creating a network of partners to help Japanese citizens devastated by the disaster to enjoy a bit of sunshine. They do this by providing a temporary warm nurturing home here with host families.
The first group of 68 Japanese citizens arrived on July 4 and were presented with leis and gifts at a welcoming ceremony held at the Honolulu Airport. Forty five of them will stay on Maui. Japan Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines offered discounted and free airfare to the participants. Originally Aloha Initiative was asking for gently used garment donations, but an outpouring of generosity from the public filled their needs within a week. “We have accumulated so much clothing we are no longer needing to collect any,” said Lynn Araki-Regan, Aloha Initiative co-founder. ”The Maui community has been so generous, even thrift stores have been donating to us. We are still seeking financial donations.”
Island Honda and Island Auto Center stepped up to provide 50 prepaid cell phones to Maui’s new guests. ”Because visitors may be out and about, we felt it was imperative for them to have the comfort and security of immediate communication access to their host families. Cell phones provide that important access,” said Anne Oishi, vice-president and general manager of Island Honda.
Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa is supporting the event as well as Aloha Initiative partners First Hawaiian Bank, Relativity Media, Mana Foods and the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui. Araki-Regan and Michiko Ishida-Powers have founded the Aloha Initiative along with Keith Powers and Keith Regan with a mission to assemble a community of people who are willing to open their hearts and homes to some of the displaced citizens needing our support.
For more information about The Aloha Initiative, call 280-1299 on Maui or 292-1262 on Oahu, or visit www.alohainitiative.com. To make a monetary donation go to any First Hawaiian Bank branch in Hawaii, Guam and CNMI through July 15.
More Stories on the Initiative:
We’ve gotten lots of media coverage on Oahu: