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Program may bring displaced citizens of Japan to stay on Maui

By Staff | Mar 31, 2011

WAILUKU — Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa is helping to launch the “Aloha Initiative.” Its mission is to provide citizens of Japan who have been displaced by the recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis with a warm and welcome home.

Public support is sought for the program founded by Keith Powers and Michiko Ishida-Powers of Palo Alto, California, and Keith Regan and Lynn Araki-Regan of Wailuku.

In the wake of the disasters, it is estimated that over 450,000 people have already been displaced from their homes in Japan.

Some have lost their homes. Some have lost their entire families.

“As the nuclear crisis continues to get worse… there is every expectation that the direct personal and economic effects from these tragedies will be felt for years to come,” said Powers, a part-time Maui resident.

“While we hope that all of the displaced are able to find placement in Japan with the help of the Japanese government and local support groups, they may need some additional help.”

“Aloha’ means affection, love, peace, compassion and mercy — the feelings and emotions we want to convey to the people of Japan. Our goal is to assemble a community of people who are willing to open their hearts and… homes to some of the displaced in case they need our support,” said Regan.

“Our goal is to provide survivors with an opportunity to get away and recharge themselves both physically and mentally,” said Mayor Arakawa.

“While monetary support is critical, we must also consider the importance of mental support for the survivors. Even if many choose not to come to Maui for respite, they will receive word through this program that our islands care and embody the true spirit of aloha.”

The details of how the program will operate, who will come, how they will be placed, who will pay for their transportation, and visa and other issues are all questions that the Aloha Initiative will address in the coming weeks.

“Right now, our primary goal is to build a community of families that are willing to host someone for a week, for a month or even for a year. We also have people signing up to help in other ways, like offering to host dinners and to provide clothing. We are also encouraging members of the business community to support this effort with commitments of in-kind contributions of flights, food, clothing, etc. Everything helps,” said Powers.

For information, visit www.alohainitiative.com or www.facebook.com/alohainitiative, or e-mail contact@alohainitiative.com.

In related news, a Maui Bake Sale for Japan will be held Saturday, April 2, at the Maui County Agricultural Festival at Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu and the Maui Swap Meet in Kahului.

Several of the island’s most popular restaurants and bakeries have already pledged support, including Peter Merriman’s Monkeypod Kitchen, Lahaina Grill, Cakewalk Bakery and the Maui Culinary Academy.

Scores of home cooks will donate cakes, cookies, pies, mochi, haupia and other sweet treats.

One-hundred percent of the proceeds will be sent to Peace Wind, a Japanese disaster response non-governmental organization that is providing medical supplies, clothing and restoration materials to those affected by the tsunami.

Peace Wind America is a 501(c)(3) organization; all donations are tax-deductible. For information, visit www.bakesaleforjapan.com or call Shannon Wianecki at (808) 205-7273.

Last week Thursday, the Aloha For Japan campaign reported donations of more than $1 million. The statewide initiative was launched to help the people of Japan devastated by the recent massive earthquakes and tsunami.

Hawaii’s largest banking institutions have all agreed to serve as collection points for monetary donations made payable to “Aloha For Japan.”

Charities accepting donations for the campaign include the Hawaii State Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Japan-America Society of Hawaii. Both are tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations.

Colbert Matsumoto, chairman and CEO of Island Insurance, one of the driving forces behind establishing the Aloha for Japan campaign, said, “There is a special bond between Hawaii and Japan, and our collective efforts demonstrate the warm aloha we have for our friends and family across the Pacific.”

Monetary donations to Aloha For Japan can be made at participating banks throughout the state, including American Savings Bank, Bank of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank, Finance Factors, First Hawaiian Bank, Hawaii National Bank, Pacific Rim Bank and Territorial Savings Bank.

Contributors can make donations online at alohaforjapan.com, which contains links to the donation pages for both the American Red Cross and the Japan-America Society of Hawaii.

Concerned about members of their sister club in Sendai, Japan, the Rotary Club of Maui is encouraging donations to the District 5000 Foundation.

Funds donated to Hawaii Rotary District 5000 by the Maui Club and its supporters will go directly to the Sendai Club to be used for urgent projects.

These funds for immediate use by the Sendai Club may be matched by funds from District 5000 and by the Rotary International Foundation, which is also collecting donations for long-term rebuilding efforts.

To contribute to the Sendai Club for its recovery work, send a check to District 5000 Foundation, and on the memo line indicate “Sendai Japan Disaster Relief Fund.” Mail the check to PDG Roy King, 619 Onaha St., Honolulu, HI 96816. For more information, contact Valorie Spence at 283-9762 or 891-8800.

Other Hawaii Rotary Clubs are making contributions to their sister clubs, as well as collecting public funds for Shelter Boxes, which provide a sturdy tent and survival supplies for immediate relief of those who lost everything in the March 11 tsunami and earthquake.

In addition, the Safeway Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Safeway Inc., launched a statewide initiative to raise funds for the people of Japan suffering in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Safeway stores throughout the islands began collecting donations at all check stands on March 18. Customers may donate by check, credit card or cash.

The Safeway Foundation will make a contribution of $100,000 and provide a one-to-one match to all employee donations.

Contributions will go through the Safeway Foundation and then directly to relief organizations.

“After a disaster of this magnitude, we feel the people of Japan are just as much our family as our neighbors down the street. This is a time when they desperately need our support,” said George Glukfeld, Safeway district manager.