By Wendy Osher
Forty-five Japanese citizens arrived on Maui yesterday as part of The Aloha Initiative program. The program offers families from Japan respite care in Hawaii following the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Under the program, volunteer host families on Oahu and Maui are providing a warm, nurturing environment to help victims of the disaster recover. The guests will spend up to 90 days in the islands, with the first group of 68 arriving over the holiday weekend.
During a welcome ceremony at the Honolulu International Airport, survivors were presented with leis and gifts. Individuals paired up with host families on O’ahu were greeted by them, while the remaining visitors were escorted to Maui.
“When we started the Aloha Initiative to try to help these Japanese citizens who were devastated by the Japan disaster, we could not have imagined the tremendous outpouring of Aloha and support that we have received,” said Lynn Araki-Regan, co-founder of The Aloha Initiative. “We are very grateful to Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa for his support, as well as our partners First Hawaiian Bank, Japan Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines, Relativity Media, and Mana Foods for stepping forward to make this dream of ours a reality. They truly embody the spirit of Aloha.”
The Aloha Initiative is backed by the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui, and was created to provide those displaced by the March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan, with a temporary home in the islands. The Japan residents were selected based on greatest personal need and circumstance.
Flight arrangements for the beneficiaries were made by Japan Airlines. Both Japan Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines offered substantially discounted fares for families participating in the program. Monetary donations to the program will be used for ground transportation, discounted airfare, and travel insurance.
Ways to help The Aloha Initiative Program:
- Monetary donations are still being accepted through July 15, 2011 at any First Hawaiian Bank branch in Hawaii, Guam and CNMI.
- On Maui, gently used or new clothing donations are being accepted at: Araki-Regan & Associates, at the Kahului Hongwanji Mission, and at Omochaya in the Pukalani Terrace Center (call 572-9833 beforehand if dropping off at Omochaya).
- On Oahu, gently used or new clothing is being accepted at: Hope Chapel West Oahu inthe Waikele Shopping Center. Donations can be made on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on the first Saturday of each month in July and August from 9 a.m. to noon.
*** Supporting information courtesy The Aloha Initiative.