2018 was a difficult year for many Hawai‘i residents.
In April, historic rains brought landslides and flooding to Kaua‘i, wiping out homes and shutting down the main highway leading to the island’s north shore. Residents were stranded for more than a week, in emergency shelters, isolated from services, requiring supplies from concerned volunteers steering their personal boats through dangerous surf.
In May, Kilauea volcano sent lava through residential areas of the Puna district on Hawai‘i Island, shooting molten rock and gas through fissures in formerly quiet streets. Entire neighborhoods were evacuated, homes and property left to the mercy of nature. In August, Hurricane Lane was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it skirted the island chain, but it brought flooding to Hawai‘i Island, leaving even more students in financial distress.
The impact on University of Hawai‘i students was dramatic, and it is still being felt on our campuses today. Damaged or destroyed vehicles meant transportation issues even as life returned to some semblance of “normal.” Shifting living arrangements created new responsibilities in taking care of elderly relatives. The rippling effects on entire communities shuttered businesses and eliminated jobs. For many, logistical hardships, financial difficulty and mental fatigue made returning to school or enrolling for the first time impossible.
“I am not looking for handouts,” wrote one student, “just a little bit of help to get me on my feet again, so I don't have to worry about where my kids' next meal is coming from, or if I'll have enough money to pick up medication this month, or enough gas to get to campus for final exams in two weeks.”
Campuses have responded with financial assistance, dedicated counselors, and space in residence halls, helping to keep students focused on schoolwork and long-term plans. Along with concerned residents in Hawai‘i’s communities, Central Pacific Bank Foundation, Strada Education Network and Hawai‘i Community Foundation stepped forward with emergency funding for housing, food, scholarships, medical expenses, counseling services, and other financial difficulties to serve students hit by these extraordinary natural disasters.
There’s no predicting when disaster will throw our communities and our students’ lives into chaos, but we thank our donors for reaching out when it does, helping students to stay on track in achieving their educational goals.