UNC Student Organizes Fundraiser for Maui Wildfire Victims

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The historic Waiola Church in Lahaina engulfed in flames. Picture by Matthew Thayer for The Maui News.

Before the fall semester began, a brush fire ignited in Maui, Hawaii. It devastated the island and many of its inhabitants. Months later, citizens of Maui are still struggling to survive with a shortage of medical supplies, food and other basic necessities.

After waking up to videos of fires devastating villages and people desperately feeling their homes, University of Northern Colorado student and Hawaii native Kimie Fujioka didn’t know what to do.

“I felt very helpless,” Fujioka said. “Like this situation sucks. I just wish I was home right now and be there talking to people and helping people.”

Just a week before the fire, Fujioka was at her home in Oahu, Hawaii visiting family and friends. Now over more than 3,000 miles away, she struggled to find a way she could support her fellow Hawaiians without physically being there. 

While speaking with some of her peers in the musical theater program who were also from Hawaii, Fujioka was able to come up with a plan where they could use their platform as performers to help victims of the Maui fires.

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Fujioka and fellow musical theater students decided to use their senior showcase, a culmination of several performances showcasing the talents of graduating thespians, as a way they could raise awareness and aid. During the performances’ intermission, Fujioka spoke to the audience about the lack of adequate government bailout for Lahaina and other parts of Maui. The lack of government aid has forced victims to fend for themselves and find alternative ways to get supplies. 

Fujioka talked with several of her friends and family living in Maui and asked what resources they need as well as what places to donate them to. The Public Schools of Hawai’i FoundationIlimanator‘Aina Momona, and the Maui Humane Society were recommended as all of their donations go directly to citizens of Lahaina and Maui.

During her speech at the senior showcase, Fujioka also spoke about the over 1,200 bodies still unaccounted for. Media coverage of the Maui fires has been criticized for not only the lack of stories but also the inaccuracies of how deadly the fires were. 

“The part that frustrates me most is the inaccurate numbers of the bodies that are still missing… the inaccuracy of those numbers almost made it feel like those lives don’t matter,” Fujioka said.

Fujioka and her peers didn’t just stop at using the showcase to raise awareness though. They set up QR codes around the theater that audience members could scan and donate money to the four organizations suggested to her. They have raised $233 and will continue to collect donations at future performances.

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