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May 30, 2024
  • UH Mānoa’s basic needs outreach

Caitlin Baclay lost everything on August 8, 2023, when fires destroyed Lahaina.

“My family and I were safe,” she says, “but the fire left us with nothing. The home my grandpa designed and built for our family with his own two hands was engulfed in the raging fire. The only home I ever knew was gone.”

Less than a week after the fires, she flew to O‘ahu to begin the fall semester with donated clothes and the few items she managed to evacuate with. As a student in dental hygiene, Caitlin worries about the cost of tuition and thousands of dollars’ worth of supplies, many of which were reduced to ashes in the fire. With no way to replace her items or continue with payments for her education and housing, Caitlin arrived on O‘ahu uncertain of her future at UH Mānoa.

A family member showed Caitlin a Facebook post encouraging students to contact Wiliama Sanchez as soon as possible. She says, “From then on, he has been a blessing throughout the school year, answering all my questions, assisting me with my situation, and checking up on my well-being. Striving for good grades in school, grieving the loss of my beloved town, coming to terms with a new reality, and worrying about my family have made this school year extremely difficult.”

Financial assistance relieved some of the stress, allowing Caitlin to focus on her studies. She is grateful to have the support system she has at UH Mānoa, along with the generous donors who have made this opportunity possible during these difficult times.

Addressing basic needs

Wiliama Sanchez is the Student Success Operations manager in Mānoa’s office of the Vice Provost for Student Success. He oversees UH Mānoa’s basic needs outreach, connecting students to resources for such crisis needs as emergency housing, textbook and technology support, counseling, rental assistance, temporary housing assistance and food.

“Students can find themselves suddenly not knowing where their next meal is coming from or how they’re going to keep their kids in childcare,” he says. “Then they’re at risk for giving up on studies, and when students leave school, the entire community suffers.”

In a recent study, 52% of UH Mānoa students had at least one form of basic needs insecurity, including:

  • 35% who experienced food insecurity in the prior 30 days.
  • 34% who experienced housing insecurity in the previous year.
  • 13% who experienced homelessness in the previous year.

The UH Mānoa Basic Needs Fund is a beacon of hope for countless Mānoa students, offering them the critical support needed to meet their essential human needs.

“By donating to this vital resource,” says Wiliama, “you empower students to navigate their educational journey with confidence, ensuring they have the means to say, ‘Yes, I can get through this,’ and persist through to graduation.

“This fund aids in overcoming immediate challenges and opens doors to future opportunities, reinforcing our commitment to fostering success and resilience within our student community. This fund makes a tangible difference, enabling our students to achieve their dreams and emerge as leaders prepared to make meaningful contributions to our world.”

The fire could not take his ambitions

John Bernard Flores was about to begin his final semester as a kinesiology major when his family in Lahaina lost everything. In addition to clothing, toiletries, and other necessities, donors provided a laptop and mobile hotspot for internet access. Only four months after he and his family ran for their lives from a burning neighborhood, he walked across the stage at the winter commencement ceremonies with his father and sister cheering from the audience.

“It was a moment of joy and success for my family, and the ceremony was a much-needed break from the worries on our minds,” he says.

John Bernard is back on Maui with his family, a proud graduate of UH Mānoa. He says, “I’ve managed to secure a job within walking distance of our temporary housing. While it may not align with my college degree, I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I remain focused on my goals, determined to pave a path toward a better future for me and my family.

“The kindness of donors has touched my heart in ways words cannot capture, and I’m forever thankful for your selflessness and compassion. You aren’t only giving financial assistance, but you’re offering hope to people in need.”

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808-956-8700 or send us a message.