Back in School, Maui Students Process Trauma
August 9th was supposed to be the first day of a new school year at Maui Preparatory Academy.
But on the last day of summer vacation, a brush fire started in the village of Lahaina. Strong winds led to a flareup, then a road closure. There was a storm of black smoke, quick decisions on what to take from the house, fear there wouldn’t be enough time to evacuate.
Fifteen minutes north of Lahaina, Maui Prep became an emergency shelter for 700 people covered in soot; some were still shivering from hours spent in the ocean to escape the flames.
When August 9th did arrive, it was vehicles of diapers and pool towels—not yellow buses of school children—that pulled up to the school’s campus.
Sunny West Maui neighborhoods had burned into silhouettes. There was no gas, no electricity, no homes. Communities mourned the 97 who were taken; first responders and DNA specialists searched the ashes for the thousands still missing. Teachers, security guards and Board Members at Maui Prep turned their school into a distribution center for food, hygiene items, and medicine.
Roughly 3,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade were left without a school to return to. Maui Prep, which normally teaches 300 students from preschool to 12th grade, stretched its resources to accommodate another 140 students, regardless of families’ ability to pay for tuition.
Two weeks later, the 440 students at Maui Prep did what tens of millions of American children do every fall—they went back to school.
Brother’s Brother Foundation has given Maui Prep a grant that will hire a psychologist to help students process trauma. The psychologist developed impactful relationships with students and teachers by volunteering her services in the disaster’s aftermath. The grant will hire her part-time for the entire school year.
BBF’s grant to Maui Prep is the first step in a larger initiative to address mental health needs in Maui. The organization is currently working with The Queen’s Health System to develop a program that will allow children and adolescents to access specialized mental health services long term. The Queen’s Health System operates several hospitals in Hawaii and offers extensive psychiatric and behavioral health services.
The wildfires destroyed 2,200 structures and caused an estimated $5.5 billion in damage. BBF’s immediate response to the disaster provided grants that supported relief efforts led by Hawaiian nonprofits and shipped pallets of baby formula and hygiene kits to on-the-ground partners distributing aid to impacted communities.
To donate to BBF’s disaster response in Maui, visit our donation page. In the drop-down menu, select “USA – US Disaster Relief.”