Thanks to the Hawaiian Ho’oponopno way, the donation drive at San Quentin for the victims of the Maui wildfires was a tremendous success.
Organized by members of SQ’s Asian Pacific Islander community in collaboration with outside charitable organizations, the drive provided much needed hygiene and funds to support families struggling to recover from the devastating August wildfires in Maui that destroyed the historic town of Lahaina on the island’s dry western side.
The residents who volunteered to collect the donations were members of SQ’s Native Hawaiian Religious Group and ROOTS (Restoring Our Own True Self), an API self-help group at SQ and Salano that seeks to increase the understanding about immigrant and refugee history and the related intergenerational trauma while promoting leadership
The idea for the drive came about from a discussion between ROOTS member Dao Ong, who is Vietnamese-Chinese, with his neighbor, Tongan Taiosisi “Shaka” Matangi.
“After our discussion on what we saw on the news, the devastation and how the community impacted, we knew we had to do something. We were determined to get it done,” Ong said. “Organizing and getting this thing started wasnot easy. Because of the time sensitive need, I had to convince the administration and be clear to the outside organizations of my intention.”
The men gathered in a room at the Garden Chapel to organize the donations, posing for a picture together, before packing up six boxes of hygiene for shipment to Maui with the power and precision befitting of haka dancers. In addition to the hygiene, residents at The Q donated $2,400 in total from their trust accounts.
“We’ve seen the devastation on the news, so our hearts went out them. It inspired us to be of service to our community out there,” said resident Louis Sale, who is a native Hawaiian from O’ahu and one of the leaders of the Native Hawaiian Religious Group.
He credited the giving spirit of the SQ community for making the drive a success, even though incarcerated people have few resources. “We mostly make only about 17 cents [an hour] but people reached deep into their pockets and gave generously,” Sale said.
He gave a shout out to the Oakland-based Asian Prisoner Support Committee for facilitating the donations. Without their help, he said it wouldn’t have been possible.
Nate Tan, the APSC’s co-director, said that his organization is proud to sponsor such incredible men and help them in their efforts to change the world.
“This was sparked by the men inside who wanted to make a positive impact for Maui, shows how compassion goes beyond prison walls,” Tan said. “The collective camaraderie, the true level of commitment passion and principle, was really incredible and impressive to see — people inside still care deeply.”
Auntie Adel, the Native Hawaiian Religious Group’s longtime volunteer, mentor, and uku’lele teacher, echoed those sentiments.
“I’m really impressed with the guys, it’s amazing how much the guys have been able to come together and do an absolutely successful drive. They’ve been the engine that has been able to get all the donations,” Adel said.
She explained that with Polynesians, there is a lot of emphasis on family, known as ohana in Hawaiian. The concept kuleana is also very important, which means giving of yourself to help others. Adel said that kuleana is ingrained in their culture, that when someone needs help, whether a stranger coming to your door or someone you know, you open your door and you help anyone that needs help.
“That’s part of the culture, and when you consider the guys here, they’re trying to redeem themselves. In order to get back in touch with your roots and ask for forgiveness for sins committed, how better to do that than do what you can do to help others and be part of a culture that’s part of you because its part of your roots,” she said.
“All the history of Lahaina, and to realize that’s all gone, it’s crazy,” she said.
Adel said the broader Polynesian community in the Bay Area has been holding fundraisers, free concerts, and recently filled a theater in Berkeley to raise money to donate to Maui. “The guys in here were able to do that, too,” she said.
Ong was pleased at how the drive came together, providing much needed aid to those in Maui who are hurting.
“In the end, I am extremely proud of the response among the population and the guys who volunteer to help make this possible,” Ong said. “This is what it is all about, rising up in solidarity to assist and heal our communities.”