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Lahaina street fire damage

More than a 100 University of Hawaiʻi students from across the 10 campuses were directly impacted by Maui wildfires, according to a report by UH President David Lassner at the August 17 UH Board of Regents meeting.

“Words cannot convey the devastation and horror of the events last week in Lahaina,” said Lassner. “First and foremost, as of today, we are not aware of any loss of life or casualties among our employees or students.”

Lassner added that no UH facilities were damaged. He said that UH Maui College is working with 22 students who lost their homes, (32 as of August 21); 37 who were displaced and living with family, friends or in shelters; seven who lost vehicles and 32 who lost their jobs (46 as of August 21). There are about 90 students from Maui directly impacted by the wildfires enrolled at other UH campuses including 36 at UH Mānoa, 27 at UH Hilo, three at UH West Oʻahu and 10 at the other six UH Community Colleges.

Evaluating and assisting affected students

More on how to help Maui ʻohana and the Maui wildfires.

UH is still evaluating the full impact on students, according to Lassner. Of the roughly 400 UH students in the two Lahaina zip codes, just under 200 are UH Maui College students, and 200 attend other UH campuses through distance learning and online classes. UH academic units have used a combination of phone and email to reach students.

“The current requests include deferral of acceptance, withdrawals, switching to all online courses, assistance with airfare, access to reliable Internet and devices, support from counseling and disability services, replacement of diplomas, and at the Mānoa and Hilo campuses, housing cancellations and delayed move-ins,” said Lassner.

The basic needs coordinators and care teams from each campus have been activated, according to Lassner, to assist with providing goods and services directly to students along with appropriate referrals to campus and community resources. UH West Oʻahu and UH Mānoa are sending a total of 74 laptops to UH Maui students.

$1 million donation for impacted students

Lassner also announced that the Stupski Foundation through the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation has made a $1 million donation to establish a fund that will direct immediate cash payments to UH students impacted by the Maui wildfires. The UH Foundation is already accepting donations to support both UH students and employees impacted by the fires to provide financial support and relief. The work is just beginning, according to Lassner.

“We are acutely aware that we will need strengthened mental health services on our campuses as trauma evolves differently for different people and impacts vary greatly,” Lassner said. “We have a small historic systemwide fund and as we look at how to augment it we may target it this year for those impacted by the fires.”

UH relief efforts, plans for future

Volunteers filling containers with rice and stew

Lassner also highlighted the work being done by UH Maui College including hosting a FEMA assistance location for Maui residents and serving as a food preparation hub feeding thousands of displaced residents every day. The college was also featured in a “Maui Strong” segment of Good Morning America. Moving forward, Lassner said UH is determining how to best support the Maui community in the months and years to come, from providing research and scientific expertise to workforce training through programs such as Good Jobs Hawaiʻi.

“Longer term, and perhaps most importantly for the future, how does the community rebuild Lahaina sensitively and wisely?” Lassner said. “Can we rebuild the ahupuaʻa in a more sustainable and resilient manner with consideration of how water flows, how what happens upland impacts everything downland to the ocean, how food and sustenance can be provided. We know that if every landowner does whatever they want with their own parcel we will likely end up with what we had before only bigger. This is an area where our design students, ecosystem experts, historians, practitioners and others can provide great insights if they can be brought together.”

Watch President Lassner’s report to the Board on Maui wildfires.

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