Facebook Helping Affected Communities Heal
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Helping Affected Communities Heal

It has been exactly three months since the wildfires engulfed the island of Maui, claiming lives, damaging homes and businesses, and severely impacting the ecosystem of Maui and the surrounding islands of Hawaii. On top of debris and toxic air pollution, scientists are concerned that runoff from the rubble will flow into the island's coral reefs, posing harm to our larger global ecosystem. Schools near the affected areas had to close and are struggling to reopen due to toxic exposure, severely impacting youth and their futures for years to come.

To help affected communities heal, Students Rebuild will donate $300,000 to Maui United Way (MUW) to support recovery efforts across the island and greater Hawaii. The support aligns with Students Rebuild’s focus on climate conservation this school year. This year’s challenge, the Extraordinary Earth Project, invites students worldwide to learn about their environment and how youth can protect their local and global ecosystems. The program encourages students to create climate-themed works of art, and with each piece of student art shared, the Bezos Family Foundation donates funding to partners Choose Love/Choose Earth, Little Amal, National Wildlife Federation, Eden Reforestation Projects, Solgaard Nyx Foundation, working to mitigate the effects of climate issues.

Joining Forces With Maui United Way

For more than 75 years, MUW has been a driving force for change in Hawaii and has ramped up its efforts to support the community's needs after the wildfires. In the aftermath of the unprecedented and devastating Maui wildfires, Students Rebuild helps MUW assist communities reeling from disaster.

MUW’s Rapid Response Fund provides essential resources for nonprofits and organizations working on the ground, enabling them to provide emergency assistance, medical supplies, and outreach for those impacted by the Maui wildfires. By replenishing response capacity at local shelters and helping fire victims and people experiencing homelessness in the aftermath, Native Hawaiian practitioners, alongside the fund, are making a tangible difference in the lives of those who need it most.

“We’re grateful for the response from global programs like Students Rebuild in helping us tackle one of the most intensive efforts in our organization’s 75-year history,” said Nicholas Winfrey, President of Maui United Way. “When catastrophic wildfires forced Maui residents from their longtime homes and into an unknown future in early August, our small yet mighty local staff immediately transitioned to around-the-clock disaster response. Students Rebuild’s support shows Maui fire survivors and our community that the world is there for them as they recover.”

Students Rebuild’s funding will go toward three organizations sponsored by MUW dedicated to youth and ecological restoration, including:

  • Kupu's Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps (HYCC) equips young adults for professional endeavors by offering green job and volunteer prospects and delivering training in essential life skills. Participants learn about conservation and work towards obtaining a secondary education degree.

  • The NASA Harvest Project has taken on the challenge of tackling food insecurity in Maui. Following the devastating wildfires, the project has shifted its focus to using data and mapping tools to support MUW's Emergency Financial Assistance program. They have organized hackathons, innovation challenges, and technology conferences to promote knowledge exchange and skill development to empower communities to address local issues such as sustainable agriculture and the impacts of climate change. The ultimate goal is to create a closed-loop system and economy, which will help the Mauians tackle these issues.

  • Hawaiʻi Land Trust which is dedicated to preserving Hawaiian land through sustainable restoration initiatives, education, and engagement with young individuals who act as stewards of the land. The organization protects over 21,500 acres of land across Hawaiʻi, with seven publicly accessible preserves and 44 conservation easements that safeguard agricultural, ecological, and cultural resources on public and private lands through conservation transactions.

What’s Next?

“Our hearts go out to the people in Maui who are working to rebuild their community,” said Students Rebuild Managing Consultant Alex Manuel. “Students Rebuild, along with the teachers and students participating in the Extraordinary Earth Project, are keeping Maui residents top of mind as we create art for impact. We aim to make a difference and are committed to taking action to protect the Earth’s ecosystems.”

In these challenging times, extraordinary efforts by Maui United Way exemplify the community's power and resilience in the face of disaster. Through smart investments, MUW is rebuilding Maui and helping the community enter a new chapter in Maui's future. If you want to learn more about relief and recovery efforts, you can learn more on the MUW website.

Are you interested in creating art to protect our planet? Join the Extraordinary Earth Project and take action today at studentsrebuild.org/earth.