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Prediction: Lahaina Fires to Burn Nonprofits

After Lahaina burned to the ground, the finger-pointing began. Itʻs natural to look to place blame, especially with the horrific loss of life. As a kanaka oiwi (indigenous people of Hawaiʻi) my mind first went to our people who have lived and stewarded the land and the ocean in that area for centuries.

On the news, you heard terms frequently used such as ʻkokuaʻ (help), ʻohanaʻ (both immediate + extended family), ʻmalamaʻ (care for/help) and ʻkuleanaʻ (responsibility for). These are key cultural values that are widely known and acted upon.

There have been many governments, nonprofits and individuals from Maui and the other islands who have come to Kokua to bring aid to the people. Those that are best placed to truly malama the people to help move from a place of devastation to being re-established on their land are those in the nonprofit sector. In all disasters, nonprofits have responded, and for many, at great cost.

For a nonprofit to effectively serve after a catastrophic event like this requires them to have the following in place:

  • Unrestricted resources! Funding and other resources are pouring in to support those affected by the wildfires. Please make sure they are unrestricted and not just tied to the response efforts. If you donʻt, when the disaster is over, the nonprofit could be in a much worse place because they donʻt have the operational support to keep afloat.

  • An effective system of management and governance helps keep the organization efficient and capable of moving forward strategically during and after they respond.

  • Seeking collaboration rather than competition for resources can be a big challenge if previous collaborations has not worked out. Prepare for disasters when there arenʻt any by learning to collaborate before you have to.

  • Build a history of community engagement and relevance with those you serve. Many indigenous peopleʻs have learned to shy away from help because of past experiences.

  • A culture of adaptability and resilience shows up in these circumstances! Staff and volunteers that have a history of working together and are able to adapt to changing circumstances will be much more effective in crunch time.

  • Be able to manage the emotional and psychological impact of what happened. Most trained professional responders have not experienced the type of death scenes theyʻve encountered in Lahaina. We must be ready to support their mental health because this is not something most staff members will not be able to work through on their own.

As you review this list I hope the realization hits you. These are really good tips, regardless of whether a nonprofit is responding to a disaster or just doing what it does best in normal times. Idaho Partners for Good helps nonprofits prepare for the worst while working toward being their best.

Many of us have created beautiful memories in Lahaina and are supporting the people of Maui with our charitable donations. Do me a favor? Donʻt target your donations just to the wildfire response! Make your donation unrestricted. This means supporting the operational infrastructure of these nonprofits that are doing a great job of responding so we donʻt leave them in need of emergency response!

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